Brian Satterfield


Senior Manager, Digital Media & Content with Pacific Union San Francisco, South Beach

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San Francisco County



"Right on the Water"

Looking for a low-key Marin County neighborhood with a great sense of community and easy access to San Francisco Bay? San Rafael’s Loch Lomond, which runs along Point San Pedro Road on the east side of town, is a great option.

Developed in the 1960s, the neighborhood consists of around 200 homes spread along a series of small streets with Scottish-themed names, such as Locksly Lane, Kinross Drive, and Dunfries Terrace.

Neighborhood children attend San Rafael City Schools, and the community gathers at Andy’s Local Market at the Loch Lomond Marina off Point San Pedro Road. Andy’s, which opened a second location in the city’s Sun Valley area, offers up great produce, a popular deli, and neighborhood events.

The marina itself features a charming walking path, a private yacht club, more than 500 slips – and, of course, sparkling views of the Bay.

After years of limbo, work began last year on a mixed-used development at the marina, which will include a new space for Andy’s, 81 residential units, and two parks. And a resident-driven project has improved median landscaping along a 4.5-mile stretch of Point San Pedro, beautifying the area.

San Rafael homes for sale often offer a better value than those in other parts of Marin, and between December 2012 and December 2013, the median sales price for a single-family home in the central Marin city averaged $802,000. During that same period, the average median sales price in Pacific Union’s Marin County region was $893,000, 10 percent higher than in San Rafael.

In addition, San Rafael residents enjoy excellent weather, a highly walkable downtown, and easy access to nature and U.S. Route 101. And for outdoor enthusiasts, the Loch Lomond neighborhood is just a short drive or bike ride from China Camp State Park and McNears Beach Park.
  • Good Views
  • Out of the Way

"One of America's Most Affluent Towns"

Not far from Silicon Valley’s center, yet removed from it all, the tranquil town of Los Altos Hills appeals to homebuyers seeking privacy, large yards, and life amongst some of the Peninsula’s most stunning natural scenery.

With just fewer than 8,000 residents, Los Altos Hills has one of the smallest populations of incorporated municipalities in Santa Clara County. Almost strictly residential, the town lacks a library and post office but does boast its own town hall.

Because of its fairly secluded location in the foothills above Los Altos, public-transportation options are limited, though the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority does operate a bus line that runs between Mountain View and Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Nevertheless, Interstate 280 cuts through the center of the town, making for a convenient commute to San Francisco or other parts of Silicon Valley.

One major upside of Los Altos Hills’ relative isolation is the fact that ample outdoor recreation opportunities are mere minutes away. A handful of open-space preserves — including Foothill, Los Trancos, Russian Ridge, and Skyline Ridge – lie less than a dozen miles west of the town’s center and offer hikers, runners, and mountain bikers spectacular vistas of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Residents who want to get an outdoor workout without leaving the town’s limits usually hit the Los Altos Hills Pathway System, which consists of 85 miles of trails and off-road paths that connect different small neighborhoods. The town is also home to the Fremont Hills Country Club, an invitation-only facility with an Olympic-sized swimming pool, tennis courts, and an equestrian center.

Children attend schools operated by either the Palo Alto Unified School District or the Los Altos School District, both of which performed extremely well on the state’s 2013 Academic Performance Index. The former district netted a score of 932 out of 1,000, while the latter notched a 961.

Situated along winding hillside streets, some with bird’s-eye views of Silicon Valley below, Los Altos Hills homes for sale come in a variety of architectural styles, including Spanish, Craftsman, and contemporary. Because of the town’s zoning laws, lots are expansive, with a minimum size of one acre.

From December 2012 to December 2013, the average median sales price for a single-family home in Los Altos Hills was $2.85 million, according to MLS data. Throughout Pacific Union’s Silicon Valley region, only homes in the nearby town of Atherton had a higher average median sales price in that time frame
  • Large Lots
  • Away from it All
  • Beautiful Mansions
  • Great Views
  • Very, Very, Very Expensive

"One of Menlo Park's Most Exclusive Enclaves"

Nestled in the hills of West Menlo Park, the Sharon Heights neighborhood offers its residents a lovely respite from the hustle and bustle typical of Bay Area living — just off Sand Hill Road and a stone’s throw from Interstate 280 and Stanford University.

Developers Duncan McDonald and Mark Radin began building the residential neighborhood in the 1960s. Now Sharon Heights features a variety of homes, many of them ranch-style, single-family residences, as well as townhouses, condominiums, and apartments.

Established in 1961, the Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club borders the community and features a premier golf course, pool, tennis center, and dining.

And a shopping center with a Safeway supermarket, drugstore, gas station, and popular Starbucks is located just off Sand Hill Road on Sharon Park Drive, near the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Neighborhood kids have access to several great schools, both public and private. Through eighth grade, children attend the highly ranked Las Lomitas Elementary School District, which in 2013 earned a state Academic Performance Index score of 958 out of 1,000. Menlo-Atherton, the local high school, also performed well, scoring an impressive 819.

Nearby private schools include the Phillips Brooks School, Trinity School, and Menlo School.

Want to live in this picturesque community of rolling hills and leafy trees? It’ll cost you.

In November the median sale price of Sharon Heights single-family homes for sale jumped 53 percent to $2.8 million, from $1.8 million a year earlier, according to MLS data. During that same period, the number of homes on the market shot up 66.7 percent in November compared with November 2012.
  • Sunny Weather
  • Very Leafy and Green
  • Very, very expensive

"One of Palo Alto's Prettiest -- and Priciest"

You don’t have to be an academic type to move into Palo Alto’s Professorville – but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

The tiny neighborhood, which sits between Kingsley and Addison avenues and Cowper and Ramona streets, welcomed its first homes in 1889 when Stanford University professors who preferred to own their own land began building there.

An official historic district with beautiful foliage, the neighborhood boasts 100-plus-year-old homes in a variety of styles, including Dutch Colonial, Colonial Revival, and Craftsman.

Professorville is an extremely pedestrian-friendly area that is just an easy walk or bike ride from downtown Palo Alto, the Town & Country Village shopping center, and the Palo Alto Caltrain station. Residents enjoy access to an array of restaurants, stores, and entertainment nearby.

Neighborhood children attend the highly ranked Palo Alto Unified School District, which received a 2013 state Academic Performance Index score of 932 out of 1,000.

Of course, living in an extremely desirable neighborhood in a city that’s among Silicon Valley’s hottest real estate markets will cost you. The median price of Professorville homes for sale averaged $3.18 million for the period between November 2012 and November 2013, according to MLS data. During that same time period, the median home price in Palo Alto overall averaged $2.07 million.

The only drawback to the peaceful neighborhood is perhaps its marked lack of street parking during the day, thanks to commuters who leave their cars on its tree-lined streets and then head downtown or to Stanford University.
  • Close to Everything
  • Great Schools
  • Large Historic Homes
  • Pricey

"In the Thick of It All"

Situated on the north shore of Lake Merritt with easy access to freeways, public transportation, and restaurants to suit any palate, Adams Point attracts Oakland homebuyers who place a premium on convenience.

Triangular in shape, Adams Point is bordered by Grand Avenue to the south, Vernon Street to the north and west, and Interstate 580 to the north and east. The latter connects directly to several of the Bay Area’s major highways, including Interstate 80 and state Route 24.

Those who commute by public transportation will appreciate Adams Point’s close proximity to the 19th Street BART station, one of the system’s East Bay hubs. AC Transit’s NL bus line, which runs down Grand, offers another way to quickly reach downtown San Francisco.

Though almost exclusively residential, Adams Point is within an easy stroll of several of Oakland’s most bustling neighborhoods, including Downtown, Uptown, and Lakeshore.

Even so, Adams Point residents don’t need to go past the neighborhood’s southern border to find a more than suitable meal. Standouts include Coach Sushi, which offers a bottomless sake promotion, and Sidebar, which serves a variety of entrees, snacks, and cocktails. Other restaurants on Grand dish up a diverse array of cuisines, such as Mexican, Ethiopian, Thai, and Chinese.

Residents also won’t need to stray far to grocery shop, thanks to a Whole Foods Market located in the neighborhood’s southwestern corner.

Adams Point lies directly to the north of Lake Merritt Park, home to the majority of the tidal lagoon’s attractions. Families enjoy Children’s Fairlyand, a miniature theme park that has entertained local kids since 1950. Park visitors can also stroll through botanical gardens and rent a boat, canoe, or kayak at the Lake Merritt Boating Center.

Perched along hilly streets – some with views of downtown Oakland – single-family homes in the neighborhood come in a range of architectural styles, including Craftsman and Mediterranean. According to MLS data, the December median sales price for a home in Oakland’s 94610 ZIP code, which includes Adams Point, was $985,000, a year-over-year increase of 26 percent and the highest in the past two years.

One of the major trends we saw in Pacific Union’s East Bay region in 2013 is buyers’ willingness to pay more than list — anywhere from 2.4 to 13.5 percent above original price.

The 94610 ZIP code was no exception to this rule, with buyers bidding over asking price in all but one month of 2013. In December homebuyers in the ZIP code paid an average of 9.6 percent more than list price.
  • Good Restaurants
  • Affordable Apartments
  • The Lake
  • Some Crime

"Excellent Spot Off the Radar of Newcomers"

Tucked away in southwestern San Francisco in the shadow of the iconic Sutro Tower, the small West Portal neighborhood appeals to families who seek a quiet atmosphere without sacrificing the conveniences of urban living.westportal

Surrounded by the southern portion of the Inner Sunset, Forest Hill, and Saint Francis Wood, West Portal is much more accessible than many of the city’s other outlying neighborhoods, thanks to plentiful public transportation. The K-Ingleside, L-Taraval, and M-Ocean View light rail trains run through the West Portal Station and hit all major downtown stops and BART stations.

Those who commute by car to Silicon Valley can access Interstate 280 via a short drive on nearby 19th Avenue. Car owners will also appreciate West Portal’s relatively plentiful street parking, a rarity in much of San Francisco.

Although West Portal is a largely residential area with mostly single-family homes, it has a walkable strip of restaurants and shops that rivals those found in more centrally located San Francisco neighborhoods. Walk Score, an online service that ranks neighborhoods based on amenities within a quarter-mile distance, gives West Portal an impressive walkability score of 89 on a scale of 100.

West Portal Avenue is the neighborhood’s main promenade and home to an assortment of mostly mom-and-pop establishments, although you will find a Walgreen’s pharmacy and a Starbucks. True to San Francisco form, the neighborhood’s eateries serve an assorted mix of cuisines; standouts include new Italian spot Trattoria Da Vittorio, Peruvian establishment Fresca, and Greek restaurant Orexi.

Those who want to grab a nightcap after dinner can do so at the Dubliner or the Philosopher’s Club, two well-known neighborhood taverns, or the Que Syrah wine bar.

Shoppers will also find almost everything they need along West Portal Avenue, including dedicated stores for books, toys, CDs, hardware, clothing, and flowers. The neighborhood has several smaller grocery stores, as well as its own movie theater.

Homebuyers with children are no doubt attracted to West Portal because of the high-quality public and private schools, but the neighborhood’s large homes; spacious yards; and tranquil, suburban feel are also big selling points.

Families will also appreciate the fact that West Portal has its own playground and library, both just around the corner from the Muni station. Larger parks, including Pine Line Park and Sigmund Stern Grove, are a short stroll away. The latter hosts a summer live-music series, with free shows every Sunday from June through August.

According to MLS data, the median single-family home price in San Francisco’s District 4, which includes West Portal, was $1,012,000 in October 2013, 9 percent above prices in the city overall. After hitting its yearly peak in August and September, the months’ supply of inventory (MSI) in District 4 fell to 1.4 in October, nearly identical to the citywide MSI of 1.5.

Buyers in District 4 have been paying more than asking prices since February, sometimes as much as 12 percent more. In October, buyers in that part of San Francisco paid 7.5 percent above initial price, an increase of 4.5 percent from the previous month.
  • Easy walk to anything you want
  • Friendly peaceful village feel
  • Quiet at night (other than a couple bars)

"Always Sunny..."

With a population of 24,285, Lafayette boasts four main neighborhoods: Burton Valley near the Moraga border with its California ranch homes and easy access to open space; downtown, which enjoys accessibility to shops, restaurants, and the city’s BART station; Happy Valley with its prized elementary school, athletic club, and proximity to the Lafayette Reservoir; and Reliez Valley, featuring a rural feel, proximity to Briones Regional Park, and popular cycling routes.

Several years ago, the city made national headlines for an Iraq war memorial of thousands of white crosses protesters erected on a hillside opposite the BART station.

Lafayette’s schools enjoy some of the highest rankings in Contra Costa County. Most students living in Lafayette attend Acalanes High School, which earned an Academic Performance Index, or API, score of 910 in 2011.

Lafayette residents also attend Campolindo High School in neighboring Moraga, which received an API score of 923. The Lafayette School District’s elementary and middle schools recorded a combined API of 922 in 2011.

In addition to its schools, the city offers its own library and learning center, many bicycle and hiking trails, and the stunning Lafayette Reservoir. It takes around 25 minutes to travel to downtown San Francisco from the Lafayette BART station.

The city’s revitalized downtown features outdoor dining, a Chow Restaurant, a Yankee Pier restaurant, and numerous shops and eateries. Each September the Lafayette Art & Wine Festival attracts huge crowds with its craft booths, microbrews, wine and food tasting, and live music.
  • Good Weather
  • BART
  • Nice Downtown Area
  • Little Nightlife

"Walk to Everything You Need"

Due to its favorable location, peaceful surroundings, and excellent schools, the Allied Arts neighborhood has always been a popular choice with Menlo Park homebuyers.

Just a short walk from both downtown Menlo Park and Stanford University, Allied Arts is bordered by El Camino Real on the east, Creek Drive to the south, Arbor Road on the west, and Middle Avenue to the north. Despite its central location, the small neighborhood retains a relaxed and tranquil atmosphere, in part because it is separated from busy Sand Hill Road by San Francisquito Creek.

The neighborhood – also known as Stanford Park – takes its name from the Allied Arts Guild, a complex that houses nearly a dozen local arts and crafts studios, galleries, and shops. The Allied Arts Guild is also well-known for its lush gardens, where visitors can relax amongst Nile lilies, hydrangeas, rose bushes, and fountains.

Allied Arts residents enjoy easy access to U.S. Route 101, located about three miles to the east, and Interstate 280, four miles to the west. The neighborhood is also roughly equidistant from both the Menlo Park and Palo Alto Caltrain stations, a convenient perk for those who need to commute to San Francisco or San Jose.

Residents have no shortage of shopping and dining options within a quick stroll, including Stanford Shopping Center, a large open-air mall that houses a number of big-name and luxury retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Shreve & Company, and Tiffany & Company. Downtown Menlo Park, with its strip of stores and restaurants along Santa Cruz Avenue, is less than a mile to the north – also a snap to access on foot.

Schoolchildren in the neighborhood attend Oak Knoll School and Hillview Middle School, both of which are operated by the highly ranked Menlo Park City School District. In 2012, the district scored 940 out of a possible 1,000 on California’s Academic Performance Index.

Homes in Allied Arts are situated along tree-lined streets and are constructed in a variety of architectural styles, including bungalows, Tudor-style residences, and contemporary designs. Portions of Allied Arts lack sidewalks, but since it gets less automotive traffic than the neighboring downtown area, strolling in the street is not really a problem.

According to MLS data, in September, the median price for a single-family home in Allied Arts was $1,325,000, a year-over-year increase of 2 percent and 12 percent less than properties in Menlo Park as a whole. Homes in the neighborhood sold for an average of 8.4 percent above their asking prices in September.
  • Beautiful Older Homes
  • Really Walkable
  • Close to Standford and Public Transportation
  • Not Cheap

"Funky, Throwback ,60s Feel"

Unabashedly quirky, Fairfax serves up a small-town vibe that stands in unique contrast to the more suburban settings of some other Marin County communities. But in addition to the town’s one-of-a-kind character, Fairfax residents also enjoy access to some of the best outdoor recreational activities in the Bay Area — practically in their backyards.mtnbike

Located three miles northwest of the Marin County seat of San Rafael, Fairfax is about 10 times smaller in terms of area: just 2.1 square miles. Likewise, it is far less populated than San Rafael, with only about 7,500 residents.

Fairfax’s compact downtown area, roughly centered around Broadway Boulevard and Bolinas Road, packs in more than a dozen locally owned shops and restaurants in a two-block stretch. The strip even has its own six-screen movie theater, which became the first multiplex in the nation powered by solar electricity in 2008.

Thanks to its small size and tightly centered downtown section, Fairfax is one of the most walkable communities in Marin County. WalkScore, an online service that assigns locations a walkability score based on amenities within a quarter-mile distance, ranks Fairfax a 97 on a scale of 100.

While Fairfax is indeed a good fit for pedestrian-minded homebuyers, it also draws outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes.

Due to its central location within Marin County, the town lies within close proximity to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Pacific Ocean, and dozens of smaller regional parks and preserves.

One of the closest outdoor playgrounds Fairfax residents have at their disposal is Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve, a 498-acre county park that’s popular with hikers and trail runners. Cascade Falls, which comes to life during the rainy winter and spring months, is one of the park’s highlights and is easily accessible by a quick, 1.2-mile round-trip hike.

Marin is unofficially considered the birthplace of mountain biking, and the county’s official bicycle coalition makes its headquarters in Fairfax. The Marin County Bicycle Coalition publishes a bicycle map that details mountain-biking trails and commuter routes across the county. The official Marin County Parks website also lists two dozen parks that offer biking trails.

The median sales price for a single-family home in Fairfax — many of which sit along winding streets in the hills surrounding downtown – was $634,000 in September, according to MLS data. The current median sales price represents a 2 percent increase from September 2012.

Fairfax homes are currently a hot commodity, selling for 8.9 percent above their original asking prices in September, the highest premiums we’ve seen in the town in the past two years. Meanwhile, homes in our overall Marin County region sold for an average of 5.8 percent below their list prices in September.
  • Unique
  • Close to Nature

"Pretty but Pricey"

With handsome homes situated on large lots but still just a short stroll from happening downtown Palo Alto, quiet Crescent Park is one of the northern Santa Clara County city’s most coveted neighborhoods.squire_house

Separated from neighboring Menlo Park (and San Mateo County) to the north by Grant San Francisquito Creek, Crescent Park is bordered by Newell Road to the east, Channing Avenue to the south, and busy Middlefield Road to the west. University Avenue, which cuts through portions of the neighborhood, takes residents east to U.S. Route 101 in a matter of minutes.

Following University about a mile to the west leads directly into the heart of downtown Palo Alto, which boasts the one of the city’s most concentrated strips of restaurants and shops. Adjacent to downtown is the Palo Alto Caltrain station, where the weekday Baby Bullet train transports commuters to San Francisco in less than 40 minutes.

Although it is situated between freeways and train tracks, Crescent Park is far enough removed from either to feel overly hectic.

Near the neighborhood’s southern border sits Eleanor Pardee Park, popular with families thanks to its pair of playgrounds. The park is also home to the Palo Alto Demonstration Gardens, which features a fruit and vegetable garden, as well as one that highlights native Bay Area flora.

Families are also drawn to the neighborhood because of its excellent public schools. Duveneck Elementary School and Jordan Middle School earned scores of 974 and 947, respectively, on a scale of 1,000 on the state’s 2012 Academic Performance Index.

Many homes in the neighborhood were built before World War II and include Craftsman and Spanish Revival-style houses, as well as bungalows. Of particular note is the palm-tree-encircled, 6,300-square-foot Squire House located at 900 University Ave., one of the few examples of Neo-Classical Revival architecture in California.

According to September MLS data, the median sales price for a single-family home in Crescent Park was $3,350,000, the highest in Palo Alto and tied for No. 6 on the list of the most expensive neighborhoods in Pacific Union’s Silicon Valley region.

The median sales price in the neighborhood has grown steadily over the past 12 months and is now at its yearly peak — 21 percent higher than it was in September 2012. Crescent Park home prices showed their highest quarterly median price levels in the third quarter of 2013 — $3,200,000 – since the fourth quarter of 2011.

As inventory figures suggest, high buyer demand in Crescent Park could be driving the continued price appreciation. The months’ supply of inventory (MSI) was 1.0 in September, the highest it ever got in the third quarter. Inventory remains constrained in Palo Alto overall, where the MSI ranged between 0.7 and 1.2 in the third quarter.
  • Near Caltrain
  • Architecture
  • Leafy and well laid-out
  • Walking distance to downtown
  • Very expensive

"One of the City's Most Family-Friendly Neighborhoods"

With its popular 24th Street shopping district, easy commute to the South Bay, and beautiful views, Noe Valley has become one of San Francisco’s most desired neighborhoods.

Living in Noe Valley can shave 15 minutes or more off commuting south, and many Silicon Valley companies have employee shuttles that stop in the neighborhood. The J Church metro train and the 24 Divisadero and 48 Quintara buses are among the public transit options available in Noe Valley.

Numerous shops and restaurants line 24th Street, including a Whole Foods Market, the ever-popular Firefly restaurant, the Noe Valley Bakery, and Phoenix Books. Lovejoy’s Tea Room, a quaint British tea room that remains a favorite for bridal showers, sits around the corner on Church Street.

A second, smaller shopping strip on Church near 29th Street features a Regent Thai restaurant, and Toast Eatery diner, which also boasts a 24th Street location.

Homes in the Liberty Hill area on the neighborhood’s north end — bounded by Liberty, Hill, Church, and Castro streets – offer stunning views and proximity to Mission Dolores Park and generally sell at a higher price point. A lavish Christmas display on 21st Street attracts throngs of spectators each December to Liberty Hill.

Noe Valley enjoys some of San Francisco’s sunniest weather, but conditions tend to get foggier as the neighborhood climbs toward Diamond Heights.

Nearby Dolores Park with its spectacular views, dog run, and free movie nights, remains one of the most popular hangout spots in San Francisco, and the city recently redid the park’s playground as part of a large-scale renovation project.

The median sale price for a single-family home in Noe Valley increased to $1,725,000 million in October 2013, up 23 percent from a year earlier, according to MLS data.

Inventory in the neighborhood has been constrained all year, and the months' supply of inventory (MSI) was 1.1 in October. Throughout 2013, the MSI has ranged from 1.7 in September to 0.7 in May.

While Noe Valley is known for its large number of young families, it remains appealing to a diverse crowd including singles and couples with no children.
  • Sunny
  • Quiet
  • good shops

"Small, Rural and Definitely Mellow"

Nestled in the Napa Valley, the city of St. Helena offers a charming Main Street, rural beauty, strong schools, and a small-town feel.

Buyers attracted to the city of 5,900 include young families, empty-nesters, and residents from other parts of the Bay Area looking for vacation and second homes. St. Helena enjoys sunny weather most of the year and boasts an array of gourmet restaurants including the Restaurant at Meadowood, which has earned three Michelin stars.

Other favorites include Cook St. Helena, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, Villa Corona, and French Blue. Gott’s Roadside diner on Main Street is known for its onion rings and milkshakes. In addition, St. Helena is home to the Culinary Institute of America cooking school’s California campus.

Also lining Main Street are a number of quaint shops, such as Pennyweight stationery, Steve’s Housewares and Bridal Registry, and Woodhouse Chocolate. Grocery stores include Safeway, Sunshine Foods Market, and Dean & DeLuca just outside of town.

The 12-acre Crane Park features tennis, volleyball, and bocce courts, as well as baseball fields, picnic areas, and horseshoe pits.

City residents attend the St. Helena Unified School District from kindergarten through 12th grade. In 2012 the district earned a combined Academic Performance Index score of 834.

St. Helena’s main neighborhoods are: the West Side, an area with older homes and cul-de-sacs that’s popular among young families; downtown, mostly home to shops and restaurants; the Signorelli subdivision on the city’s east side; and the Sylvaner subdivision on the west end of town.

In September 2013, the median price for a single-family home sold in St. Helena was $1,049,000, a year-over-year gain of 11 percent.
  • Top-Notch Dining
  • Small Town Feel

"San Francisco's Cream of the Crop"

One of San Francisco’s most famous neighborhoods, Pacific Heights boasts stunning views, elegant homes, and a respite from the bustle of urban living.

The neighborhood, which has made frequent appearances in books and movies, is also home to some of San Francisco’s top private schools. San Francisco University High School, the Drew School, Town School for Boys, the Hamlin School, and Stuart Hall & Convent of the Sacred Heart are all located in Pacific Heights.

Shopping and restaurants abound on and around Fillmore Street including SPQR Italian restaurant, Pizzeria Delfina, the Grove, Ralph Lauren, and many thrift and consignment stores. Ella’s at Presidio Avenue and California Street remains a popular brunch spot.

Other nearby shopping includes the boutiques of Sacramento Street, Laurel Village Shopping Center, and Union and Chestnut streets. The neighborhood also provides easy access to nightlife and entertainment at Yoshi’s Jazz Club, the Clay Theatre on Fillmore, the Vogue Theatre on Sacramento, and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in Japantown.

Pacific Heights boasts two parks with spectacular views. Alta Plaza Park, perched atop a hill at Jackson and Scott streets, has tennis courts, a playground, walking paths, and a dog area.

Lafayette Park at Laguna and Sacramento streets offers similar amenities, and just underwent a substantial remodeling.

The Lyon Street stairs reach their peak at Lyon and Broadway streets and offer gorgeous views of the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco Bay, and the Marina district.

The Gold Coast, a section of high-end homes along Broadway, is perhaps Pacific Heights’ best-known stretch and a frequent stop for tour buses. Apple executive Jonathan Ive recently made headlines when he bought a $17 million home on the street.

Other sought-after spots include the 2500 block of Green Street, the 2900 and 3100 blocks of Pacific Avenue, and large portions of Washington, Clay, and Vallejo streets. Buyers often search for double lots and north-facing homes with south-facing gardens, our agents say.

In September 2013, the median price for a single-family home sold in Pacific Heights was $7.07 million, nearly eight times higher than the $930,000 median sales price found in San Francisco overall.
  • Nice Views
  • Gorgeous homes
  • Expensive Rents

"Probably the Coolest Little Town in Sonoma County"

Healdsburg may be one of Sonoma County’s best-known tourist attractions, but the city of 11,000 is also a fantastic place to call home.

With its strong agricultural roots, charming downtown, and world-class restaurants and wineries, Healdsburg attracts a range of home buyers eager to live in the Russian River city.

Favorite eateries include Madrona Manor restaurant, Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar, and Ravenous Café and Lounge, among numerous others.

Healdsburg offers an array of wine tasting rooms including Murphy-Goode, La Crema, and Kendall-Jackson. Those in the mood for a handcrafted lager or ale head to the Bear Republic Brewing Co.

Opportunities for recreation and entertainment abound in Healdsburg, and the city has a large number of parks, including 11-acre Badger Park, a skate park, and swim center. The Healdsburg Center for the Arts features more than 100 local art exhibits a year, and summer concerts delight music-lovers in the city plaza.

Healdsburg homes for sale vary in style, with many sporting a Victorian or bungalow look and offering vineyard views. The average price for homes sold in September 2013 was $585,000.

As in many parts of the Bay Area and U.S., the supply of homes for sale has been shrinking as demand rises. In September 2013, the months' supply of inventory (MSI), was 2.3 -- solidly tilted toward sellers.

Healdsburg attracts many types of buyers looking for everything from second homes to vineyard properties to primary residences.
  • Wine
  • Restaurants
  • Temperate weather, lots of out doors activities

"Commute to SF Via the Ferry"

Homebuyers are heading to Larkspur for its great weather, highly ranked schools, and historic, walkable downtown.

Easily accessible by Highway 101, the city of 12,000 also boasts a Golden Gate Ferry station for easy commuting to San Francisco.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, downtown Larkspur welcomes a variety of festivals each year, including the Corte Madera/Larkspur Fourth of July Parade & Celebration and the Larkspur Flower and Food Festival.

Magnolia Avenue is home to the Larkspur Library, City Hall, the fire department, and an array of shops and restaurants. Emporio Rulli café and wine bar remains a popular daytime hangout, and the Silver Peso successfully combines a historic building with a dive bar vibe.

For fine dining, locals head to Left Bank brasserie, the Tavern at Lark Creek, and the much-beloved Picco. Avatar’s serves up Punjabi burritos and other Indian fusion treats in the Larkspur Plaza shopping center, also home to Lucky supermarket.

The Lark Theater offers art films, live broadcasts of political debates, and streaming of the Metropolitan Opera.

New owners have transformed the Marin Country Mart shopping center at Larkspur Landing, which is blossoming with a number of high-profile businesses including Rustic Bakery, El Huarache Loco Mexican restaurant, and Three Twins Ice Cream. The shopping center also hosts Off the Grid food truck events, children’s movie nights, and a farmers market.

An 85-unit housing development is under way at the former Niven Nursery property on Doherty Drive. As part of the developer’s agreement with Larkspur, the city will receive 2.5 acres for a community facility and park at the site.

Larkspur shares its police department and school district with the adjacent town of Corte Madera; the two municipalities are known as Marin’s Twin Cities.

In 2012 the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District received an overall Academic Performance Index score of 924 for its two schools: Neil Cummins Elementary School and Hall Middle School. Redwood High School on Doherty Drive earned a score of 900.

Larkspur’s excellent schools attract many young families to the area, but the city also remains popular with empty-nesters looking for a charming, walkable town.

The Baltimore Canyon and Palm Hill neighborhoods are among the city’s most desired locations with their historic homes and easy walks to downtown. For buyers in search of a bit more square footage, the Meadowood area tends to offer larger homes.

Maintaining the city’s character remains important to city officials, and the Heritage Preservation Board oversees historic resources, including many Victorian homes. While historic homes often require a bit of modernizing, the results can be stunning.

In September 2013, the average sale price of Larkspur single-family homes increased 31 percent to $1.44 million, up from $990,000 a year earlier, according to MLS data.
  • Downtown Area
  • Schools
  • Easy Commute to San Francisco
  • Pricey

"The Epitome of Old-School Santa Rosa"

With its beautiful tree-lined streets, historic homes, and great walkability, the McDonald area remains one of the most-desired neighborhoods in Santa Rosa.

Named after civic developer Col. Mark McDonald, the neighborhood offers a rich history and stately homes, some dating back to the 1800s.

Bounded by Fourth Street, North Street, and Bryden Lane, the neighborhood’s close proximity to downtown makes it a snap to get to shops, restaurants, and Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Nearby businesses include Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar, Midtown Cafe, the Pacific Market, and the Town and Country Shopping Center.

Residents also enjoy access to some of the city’s top schools. Proctor Terrace Elementary School earned a 2012 Academic Performance Index score of 898, and Santa Rosa Middle School received a rating of 813.

Thanks to its classic exterior, Santa Rosa High School has appeared in a number of films, including “Peggy Sue Got Married,” “Inventing the Abbotts,” and “Scream.”

The McDonald neighborhood is also the setting for the classic Hitchcock film "Shadow of a Doubt." The home feature in the film still stands at 904 McDonald Ave and looks a lot like it did when the movie came out in 1943.

McDonald area homes range in style from classic Victorian to Craftsman to Italianate. The McDonald Mansion, Mark McDonald’s former summer home, dates back to 1879 and recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation.

Charming smaller homes, previously occupied by wealthy residents’ maids and butlers, remain scattered throughout the neighborhood.

Home prices range from $500,000 to as high as $6 million, with the majority of McDonald area homes selling for $800,000 to $1.5 million, one of our top Santa Rosa real estate professionals said. In September 2013, the average price of Santa Rosa homes for sale was $400,000, according to MLS data.
  • Beautiful Homes
  • Historic

"One of the Priciest Places in One of the State's Priciest Counties"

Nestled in the heart of Marin County, the unincorporated community of Kentfield enjoys beautiful weather, large lot sizes, and a highly ranked school system.

Kentfield’s excellent schools are a major draw. In 2012 Bacich Elementary School earned a state Academic Performance Index score of 944 out of 1,000 and Kent Middle School received a 955.

Home to the College of Marin, Kentfield is a primarily residential community with most business activity centering on College Avenue. The Woodlands Market and Woodlands Cafe are favorite local gathering spots, and the Half Day Cafe serves up breakfast and lunch with indoor and outdoor seating. Residents also dine and shop in nearby San Rafael, Larkspur, Corte Madera, and San Anselmo.

With its proximity to Mount Tamalpais, Phoenix Lake, and Bald Hill, the area offers many opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and running. Depending on traffic, Kentfield is a roughly 10-minute drive from the Larkspur ferry terminal and Highway 101.

Kentfield homes for sale come in a range of styles including Spanish and California ranch varieties. The Kent Woodlands area offers stunning views of Mount Tamalpais and has its own property owners association. In 2011 the neighborhood made headlines when Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and his family purchased a stunning $2.25 million home there.

Kentfield home prices have been rising as buyer demand grows.

In Q3 2013 the median sale price of a single-family Kentfield home increased a staggering 67 percent to $1.985 million, compared with $1.19 million a year earlier, according to MLS data.
  • Big Lots and Homes
  • Very Quiet
  • A Bit Off the Beaten Path

"Pretty Standard Suburban Contra Costa County Vibe"

Danville has been many things over the past 150 years, growing from a small farming community to a railroad town and sleepy suburb to, today, an upscale city with a thriving commercial base.

But Danville never forgot its past. The 121-year-old railroad station is now the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. The historic Danville Hotel is a retail hub. The Grange Hall, built in 1874, is a community theater.

Danville is a busy community of 42,000 residents in central Contra Costa County. Located 30 miles east of San Francisco at the base of Mount Diablo, it is bisected by Interstate 680, with the cities of Alamo to the north and San Ramon to the south.

Amid the hustle and bustle of the East Bay, Danville has managed to keep its small-town charm, in part by hosting a variety of community events throughout the year. Farmers’ markets and street fairs occur regularly, and its Fourth of July celebration is one of the largest in the Bay Area. At Christmastime the wealth of holiday decorations draws visitors from near and far.

The 12-mile Iron Horse Regional Trail, once the route of the Southern Pacific railroad, runs through the center of town. It’s a rare treasure for walkers and bicyclists.

Danville’s schools, including Monte Vista High School and San Ramon Valley High School, are among the highest-rated in California. The town is also home to the private Athenian School.

On the western edge of Danville is Tao House, once the home of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill. He lived there from 1937 to 1944, and today the home is a historic site operated by the National Park Service.

O’Neill relished the peace and quiet of Danville and called Tao House “my final home and harbor.”

He wrote some of his most popular plays while living there, including “The Iceman Cometh” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Several lines from the latter are the basis of a bronze sculpture that stands in a park across from the Danville Library on Front Street.

Home values in Danville appreciated rapidly during the real-estate boom of the last decade, then lost 30 to 40 percent of their value from 2007 to 2011.

Prices have started rising again — up 2 percent so far in 2012. Meanwhile, the inventory of homes for sales remains exceptionally tight.

Danville homes for sale are priced all over the map,from townhouses selling for $500,000 to mansions selling for $10 million and higher.
  • Great parks
  • Great schools
  • A bit sleepy
  • Further from San Francisco

"Upscale Suburbia Smack-Dab in the Middle of Oakland"

With its beautiful tree-lined streets, small-town feel, and excellent schools, Piedmont attracts families in search of a great community with easy commutes to San Francisco.

Incorporated in 1907, Piedmont already had the reputation of being “the city of millionaires” by the 1920s, as wealthy San Franciscans built estates in the East Bay community. Oakland completely surrounds the 1.7-square-mile city, which boasts its own fire and police departments and schools.

The city of 10,800 also offers residents 44 acres of parkland and a beautiful community hall, and both CNNMoney and Forbes magazine have ranked it among the best places to live in the U.S.

With the highest rankings in Alameda County, the Piedmont Unified School District earned an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 938 out of 1,000 in 2012. The district operates three elementary schools, Piedmont Middle School, and Piedmont High School.

Dubbed a “West Coast Mayberry,” Piedmont offers many community events, including a traditional Fourth of July parade and holiday tree-lighting ceremony. The city is primarily residential with just a few businesses on Highland Avenue, including popular neighborhood meeting spot Mulberry’s Market. Residents generally head to Oakland or Berkeley for dining out and shopping.

Many residents commute to the city with “casual carpool,” an East Bay tradition where drivers pick up commuters at specific locations for carpooling to downtown San Francisco. Others take advantage of Oakland’s nearby BART stations.

Much of Piedmont’s architecture is traditional in style and dates back to the 1920s, with a smattering of mid-century and ranch homes mixed in.

Sought-after streets include Sea View Avenue and Glen Alpine Road, although buyers tend to snap up any home close to the center of town or within walking distance of schools or parks.

Piedmont homes for sale in the $1 million to $1.5 million range tend to attract the most interest. In September 2012 the median sale price for a single-family Piedmont home increased 24 percent to $1.49 million, up from $1.2 million a year earlier, according to MLS data.
  • Very Safe
  • Great Schools

"A Lot Has Changed Since the 90s"

Want to live in the center of all the action with access to some of San Francisco’s best public transit? Hayes Valley is the neighborhood for you.

The neighborhood took off after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the Central Freeway, leading to the removal of ramps at Franklin and Gough streets. It’s now home to an array of boutique shops, trendy restaurants, and galleries.

Condominiums make up a large portion of Hayes Valley homes for sale. In September the median price of condominiums in the neighborhood increased 18 percent to $822,500, up from $695,000 a year earlier, according to MLS data.

The neighborhood centers on a small park called Patricia’s Green on Octavia Street between Hayes and Fell, home to a playground, inventive sculptures, occasional food trucks, and Smitten Ice Cream, which serves up made-to-order scoops with its liquid nitrogen technology.

Java drinkers flock to Blue Bottle Coffee on Linden Street, a tiny alley between Hayes and Fell with landscaping and a seating area. Dark Garden, a leather, lingerie, and corset shop, also attracts shoppers to the alley.

Favorite Hayes Valley dining includes Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, known for its inventive cocktails and French fare; Brazilian churrascaria restaurant Espetus; Chicago-style pizza joint Patxi’s; carnival-themed restaurant Straw; Japanese Izakaya spot Nojo; and the ever-popular German eatery Suppenküche, which has also opened a beer garden across from Smitten.

The charming Hotel Biron wine bar is located on Rose Street, and Fillmore staple the Grove opened a cafe on Hayes and Franklin last year. The Fatted Calf Charcuterie offers an astounding supply of meats, cheese, and other treats, and even holds a “pork happy hour” on Wednesday evenings.

SFJAZZ is building a new concert hall at 205 Franklin Street, scheduled to open in January 2013.

Hayes Valley’s central location near City Hall gives residents some of the easiest access to public transit, Highway 101, and the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Both Muni and BART have train stations in the neighborhood, and numerous buses run along Van Ness Avenue and surrounding streets.

The neighborhood also boasts community farm and garden the Hayes Valley Farm and is home to the French American International School.
  • Good restaurants
  • Lots of shops
  • Hip social scene
  • A Little Unsafe
  • Still a little grungy

"Perhaps the Largest Concentration of Killer Taquerias in the U.S."

With its rich cultural background, amazing array of restaurants and bars, and arty vibe, it’s no wonder San Francisco’s Mission District landed a No. 2 ranking on Forbes magazine’s America’s Best Hipster Neighborhoods list.

The historically Latino neighborhood began changing in the 1990s, as young tech workers moved in and trendy shops and restaurants opened. Today, it’s an interesting mix of old and new with upscale cafes serving up single-origin espresso down the street from decades-old appliance stores and taquerias.

Residents enjoy some of San Francisco’s best weather and terrific access to transit, including numerous Muni bus lines; two BART stations; proximity to Highway 101 and Interstate 280; and stops on various Silicon Valley employee shuttles. Two Caltrain stations are just a short distance away, and bicycling remains a popular way to get around the neighborhood.

Perhaps the Mission’s biggest draw is its robust nightlife and dining scene. A few favorites include longtime staple La Taqueria, the popular Taqueria Cancun, Tartine Bakery & Cafe, Flour + Water, Foreign Cinema, Delfina, Universal Cafe, and Mission Pie, among numerous others.

For a cultural fix, head to gallery and event space The Lab, the 826 Valencia writing nonprofit (and pirate shop!), the Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center, the Roxie Theater, or Galeria de La Raza.

The Mission Recreation Center offers indoor soccer, and crowds flock to Dolores Park on sunny days for the views, lounging, playground, and tennis courts. A line for delicious scoops regularly snakes around the block at Bi-Rite Creamery near the park.

Mission, Valencia, and 24th streets are the neighborhood’s main business streets, and homebuyers include young singles, empty-nesters, and couples.

Mission homes for sale run the gamut from Victorians to two- to four-unit buildings to upscale condominiums, including a newer 16-unit building at 411 Valencia St.

In September 2012 the median sale price for Inner Mission condominiums and single-family homes increased 56 percent to $810,000, up from $520,000 a year earlier, according to MLS data. That same month, the number of homes for sale dropped 26 percent, while the number of properties under contract shot up 80 percent.
  • Sunny
  • Great restaurants
  • Good nightlife
  • Some dangerous blocks
  • A little dirty

"Quintessential, Old-School San Francisco Vibe"

A classic San Francisco neighborhood, Russian Hill offers stunning views, vibrant businesses, and plenty of local history.

Home to the one-block stretch of Lombard Street dubbed “the crookedest street in the world,” Russian Hill attracts tourists, residents, and foodies to its many restaurants and shops on Polk and Hyde streets.

Local favorites include brunch and burger joint Polkers; longtime neighborhood staple Swenson’s ice cream shop; Cole Hardware and Brownie’s Hardware stores; and the popular Greens Sport Bar. A small French section has sprung up near Polk and Green with La Folie restaurant, La Boulange Bakery, and the nearby La Tulipe Noire antiques shop.

Named after a Russian cemetery discovered in the 1800s, the neighborhood is one of San Francisco’s original “seven hills.” Russian Hill contains some of the city’s steepest streets, with stairs built into many sidewalks for better walkability.

Alice Marble Park at Greenwich and Larkin streets and Ina Coolbrith Park at Taylor and Vallejo are great places to take in spectacular views of the city and Bay. Macondray Lane, a charming foot lane, figured prominently in Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” under the pseudonym Barbary Lane.

The San Francisco Art Institute, designed by the same architects behind San Francisco City Hall, offers visitors fabulous vistas, a beautiful Diego Rivera mural, and community education courses.

Russian Hill is well-connected to downtown San Francisco by public transit, with Muni buses and cable cars carrying locals and tourists up and down its hilly streets. Some fit residents even walk to work in the Financial District.

With its large apartment and condominium buildings and lovely single-family homes, the neighborhood boasts a mix of housing stock, with most Russian Hill homes for sale dating back to the 1910s. Portions of Greenwich and Lombard streets offer secluded urban oases, including a Willis Polk-designed home at 950 Lombard that recently sold for $4.5 million.

In September 2012 the median price of Russian Hill condominiums increased 20 percent to $875,000, up from $729,000 a year earlier, according to MLS data. Meanwhile, the number of condos for sale plunged 46 percent, while those under contract increased 100 percent over the year-earlier period.
  • Classic San Francisco Feel
  • Great Views
  • Parks

"Top of the Heap in San Francisco"

San Francisco’s tony Sea Cliff neighborhood boasts some of the city’s most sweeping views and its grandest homes.

While architecture in the neighborhood varies, many Sea Cliff homes for sale are Mediterranean in style. They range in price from about $1.8 million to more than $20 million.

Sea Cliff residents enjoy easy access to China and Baker beaches, the spectacular Lands End trail, and Lincoln Park with its golf course and Legion of Honor museum. Sea Cliff homes, particularly those on El Camino Del Mar, offer stunning views of the Bay and the San Francisco skyline seen through the Golden Gate Bridge.

Because neighborhood streets don’t lie in a grid pattern, there is very little cut-through traffic, making the area exceptionally peaceful and quiet.

A number of celebrities have called the Sea Cliff home over the years including actress Sharon Stone, comedian Robin Williams, and Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. Stone’s former home at One 25th Ave. features a private entrance to Baker Beach.

The neighborhood is entirely residential, but a number of eateries including El Mansour Moroccan restaurant, Oyaji Japanese restaurant, and Tee Off Bar and Grill line Clement Street near Lincoln Park. The Cliff House and Louis’ are also nearby.

Katherine Delmar Burke School, a K-8 private girls’ school, is located at 7070 California St. and has long attracted families with girls to the neighborhood.
  • Amazing Views
  • Immaculate Streets
  • expensive

"Rural and Relaxed Santa Rosa Neighborhood"

Tucked in the middle of three mountain peaks in the southeastern corner of Santa Rosa, Bennett Valley is sure to attract homebuyers and families who seek a rural atmosphere but don’t want to leave the conveniences of the city behind.Bennett_Valley

The neighborhood is named for Gold Rush settler James Bennett, who was eventually elected to the California State Assembly. By the 1850s, other newcomers began farming a number of crops in the area, including the grapes that Sonoma County is now famous for.

Today, Bennett Valley is home to a variety of properties, including single-family homes, condominiums, ranches, and vineyards. Residents praise the neighborhood for its bucolic feel and opportunities for outdoor activities.

Bennett Valley backs up against Annadel State Park, where residents enjoy activities such as mountain biking, wildflower viewing, and fishing in Lake Ilsanjo. Bennett Valley Golf Course, the most popular place to tee off in Santa Rosa, presents another local source of outdoor entertainment, while others might prefer to sip a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at Matanzas Creek Winery.

Even though the neighborhood is less than five miles away from downtown Santa Rosa, residents don’t even have to travel that far for basic shopping needs and can access a Safeway, a CVS pharmacy, and a Starbucks at Bennett Valley Shopping Center.

Another reason that families choose to move to Bennett Valley is due to its excellent schools. The Bennett Valley Union School District, which operates the two elementary schools in the area, scored a 901 of a possible 1,000 on California’s 2012 Academic Performance Index.

In August, the median sales price for homes in the 95405 ZIP code, which includes Bennett Valley, was $415,000 – 2.5 percent higher than prices in Santa Rosa overall. Attesting to its popularity with the city’s residents, months’ supply of inventory (MSI) within the ZIP code is extremely slim, at just 1.0. Meanwhile, homes in the area have been selling for between 1 and 2 percent above asking prices since April.
  • Quiet
  • Adjacent to Annadel State Park including Spring Lake and Howarth Park.

"Killer Restaurant Selection"

With quick access to public transportation and freeways and a walkable strip of highly regarded restaurants, centrally located Temescal will appeal to Oakland homebuyers seeking a more affordable alternative to neighboring Rockridge.Temescal

Roughly speaking, Temescal is bordered by 51st Street to the north, 40th Street to the south, Broadway to the east, and state Route 24 to the west. The latter freeway feeds directly into Interstate 580, making it possible to drive to San Francisco in less than 20 minutes.

Commuters who prefer public transportation will appreciate the neighborhood’s access to two BART stations. Residents who live in the southern part of Temescal are within walking distance of the MacArthur station, while those in the neighborhood’s northern portion can opt to use the Rockridge station.

Most of the neighborhood’s businesses and eateries are located on Telegraph Avenue, Temescal’s principal thoroughfare and a strip that’s easy to explore on foot or bicycle. Walk Score — an online service that ranks neighborhoods based on amenities within a quarter-mile distance — gives Temescal a Walk Score of 87 and a Bike Score of 86 on a scale of 100.

Temescal’s restaurant and nightlife scene has exploded in the past decade and now rivals Berkeley’s famed Gourmet Ghetto. Locals line up around the block for Bakesale Betty’s fried-chicken sandwich, a delicacy that landed on Food & Wine’s list of best sandwiches in the U.S. Aunt Mary’s Cafe, which serves an array of Southern-style dishes, is a popular brunch option. Other well-regarded restaurants in the neighborhood include Dona Tomas, which offers high-end Mexican food, and Pizzaiolo, a wood-fired-pizza place founded by a former Chez Panisse employee.

There is no shortage of activities in Temescal, thanks to a variety of events throughout the year. The neighborhood hosts an annual street fair in July, as well as September’s Taste of Temescal festival, where attendees can sample a smorgasbord of food from local restaurants. Temescal also participates in Oakland’s increasingly popular First Fridays initiative, when many art galleries are open to the public.

Mosswood Park, just a few blocks south of the neighborhood’s boundaries, is home to basketball and tennis courts, a baseball field, an outdoor amphitheater, and a dogs-off-leash area. Residents seeking relief on hot summer days will appreciate the Temescal Pool, a low-cost outdoor facility that offers swimming lessons for both children and adults.

The median sales price for homes in the 94609 ZIP code, which encompasses Temescal, was $644,000 in August — a year-over-year increase of 29 percent. Homes in the neighborhood are considerably more affordable than those in the 94618 ZIP code, which includes Rockridge, where the median August sales price was $875,000.

While Temescal has a slim 1.4-month supply of inventory (MSI), there are slightly more homes on the market than there are in our Oakland region as a whole, where the MSI was 1.2 in August. On average, buyers shelled out 16.5 percent more than list price for Temescal homes in that month, as opposed to 9 percent above list in Oakland overall.
  • Affordable Rents
  • Great Restaurants

"Relaxed and Rural but Not Too Exciting"

Browns Valley, a neighborhood on the west side of Napa, is one of those rare communities that has managed to hold onto its rural identity even as it boasts all the hallmarks of modern suburban life.

While the neighborhood has its requisite housing subdivisions and streets dotted with retail stores, a drive out Browns Valley Road will take you past 100-year-old farmhouses and weathered barns that refuse to be ignored. The land was once cow pastures and orchards, and the old and new now peacefully coexist.

This tony neighborhood is home to Connolly Ranch, a 12-acre educational site on Browns Valley Road that showcases chickens, geese, goats, cows, and donkeys. Down the road is the John E. Brown house, built before the turn of the last century and once home to the area’s eponymous settler.

Opposite Woodlawn Drive is a little-noticed stone marker declaring that in 1911 the “public-spirited citizens” of the area were “the first people in California to vote a direct tax upon themselves for building a macadamized road” — at the time a modern improvement on dusty dirt streets. (Can you believe it? Folks proud of taxing themselves for a civic improvement!)

Today, Browns Valley Road remains the neighborhood’s lifeline, not least because it offers easy access to another local institution, Browns Valley Market. The grocery opened 32 years ago and remains popular and crowded. Adjacent to it is another favorite, Browns Valley Yogurt & Espresso Bar.

Browns Valley Elementary School helps draw young families to the area. The school earned an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 838 out of 1,000 in 2012.

Homes in the neighborhood range from townhouses selling for $220,000 to custom-built estates that fetch $3 million and higher.
  • Relaxed
  • Rural Feel

"Ultra-Exclusive Contra Costa Community"

Nestled between Danville and Mt. Diablo State Park, Diablo delights its residents with a country club, elegant estate-like homes, and rich history.

The unincorporated community of 1,158 has received a historic district designation based on 60 of its older homes. In the early 1900s wealthy Bay Area residents, including Herb Hills of Hills Brothers Coffee, built summer homes in the community surrounding the Diablo Country Club.

In 1916 trains dubbed “millionaire specials” brought more than 600 prospective buyers to the club, and William Randolph Hearst called the area a California “beauty spot” in the San Francisco Examiner, according to a Museum of the San Ramon Valley article.

Diablo has long earned accolades for its proximity to Mount Diablo and stunning vistas.

Most of the original homes lacked kitchens, and residents took their meals at the club, which today sits on 115 acres and features tennis and bocce ball courts, a swimming pool, and fitness center. Some early residents were apparently eccentric, with one family reportedly gathering its Arabian horses in the living room for Christmas Eve celebrations.

Despite its historic designation, Diablo has been relatively hands-off in regulating home demolitions and renovations.

Diablo homes for sale tend to vary in style from Craftsman to Tudor to English cottages, and prices range from $1 million to $6 million. Homes turn over infrequently.

While the community remains exclusively residential except for its golf course and post office, residents tend to dine out and shop in nearby Danville. Children attend the highly ranked San Ramon Valley Unified School District, which received an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 927 out of 1,000 in 2012.

Nearby private schools include the Athenian School and St. Isidore School in Danville.
  • Great Schools
  • Safe as It Gets
  • Very, Very Expensive

"One of Marin's Most Popular Cities for a Reason"

Not many suburban communities boast a vibrant downtown with loads of dining and entertainment, a rich artistic history, and extraordinary access to nature. But Mill Valley has all those things in spades, along with excellent schools and a tight-knit community.

It’s easy to take in Mill Valley’s physical beauty almost anywhere in town, from your home’s deck to the many nearby trails, including Tennessee Valley, the Dipsea, and Matt Davis. In addition, both Muir Woods National Monument and Mount Tamalpais State Park are adjacent to the city of 14,050.

Mill Valley’s connection to the arts runs deep. Well-known residents have included musicians such as Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin and Beat writers Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder.

In January, the Sweetwater Music Hall reopened with help from the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, paying homage to the original concert venue of the same name, which started hosting performances in 1972. Now in its 56th year, the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival still attracts crowds, and the 46-year-old Marin Theatre Company puts on six shows a year.

Downtown, the 142 Throckmorton Theatre offers film, theater, and music in an intimate setting, and comedian Robin Williams sometimes drops in to practice new material in front of an audience. The California Film Institute’s Mill Valley Film Festival has been bringing independent and world cinema to the Bay Area for 35 years.

The punishing but beautiful Dipsea Race – the oldest trail race in the U.S. – takes place each year on the second Sunday in June.

A community gathering space, the Depot Bookstore & Cafe is located on the main plaza. Other popular businesses include restaurateur Tyler Florence’s El Paseo, Vasco, Piazza D’Angelo, and the Buckeye Roadhouse.

Dive bar the 2am Club has been around in one form or another since 1906.

The city continues to attract young families and professionals with its strong schools and proximity to San Francisco. In 2012 the Mill Valley School District earned an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 944 out of a possible 1,000. Tamalpais High School received an 864.

Mill Valley homes for sale vary in style, but many have a craftsman influence. Homes in the hills tend to offer decks with astonishing views, while those in flatter areas like Sycamore and Tamalpais parks and Strawberry may feature yards.

In September 2013 the median sales price for a single-family home in Mill Valley was $1.02 million, up 13 percent from a year ago, according to MLS data.

Homes in Mill Valley are definitely in demand. In September, the months' supply of inventory (MSI) was 1.3, down from 2.1 in September 2012. Overall, the MSI in Marin County is currently 1.8.
  • Schools

"Good for Golfers with Deep Pockets"

Martis Camp is one of the newer residential developments in the Tahoe/Truckee area, selling its first lots in 2006. Already the development has made a name for itself as a premier golf and ski community with family-focused luxury amenities.

Martis Camp is a private, gated community on 2,177 acres of pristine Sierra forest in the Martis Valley, midway between the north shore of Lake Tahoe and downtown Truckee.

Development is capped at 653 lots, and more than 400 have sold so far. Homes are custom-built to suit their owners, but all have a rugged mountain look, whether traditional or modern, employing rough stone and natural timbers.

The Tom Fazio-designed golf course opened in 2008 and was an immediate sensation. Golf Digest ranked it the third-best new private course in the country in 2009, and Forbes named it one of the 12 best private golf communities in America.

The community adjoins the Northstar California ski resort, and Martis Camp club members have direct access to Northstar via a private, door-to-door shuttle that takes them to a new, 8,000-square-foot members ski lodge and express ski lift.

There are two club memberships available for property owners at Martis Camp. The “social” membership comes with the purchase of a developer lot plus yearly dues of $8,500, giving members full access to all amenities and two opportunities a month to play golf.

The “golf” membership costs $15,000 a year on top of a $120,000 initiation fee, giving members full access to all amenities and unlimited use of the golf course. Property owners also pay monthly homeowner association dues of $250.

Martis Camp’s luxury amenities are available year-round, although for most residents the development remains a vacation destination, especially during the summer months and ski season. Most owners come from the Bay Area.

Lots accommodate two types of homes.

Third-of-an-acre “cabin sites” are intended for homes up to 3,200 square feet, and prices for the land range from $550,000 to $900,000, according to one of Pacific Union International’s top real estate professionals in the Tahoe/Truckee region.

“Estate sites” range from three-fourths of an acre to 3 acres, and land prices can go as high as $2.1 million.

Cabin sites with homes already built sell for $2.7 million to $3.2 million, while estate sites range from $3 million to $6 million.

"Exclusive, Expensive Gated Community"

Named after a famous racehorse, the upscale Contra Costa County community of Blackhawk galloped into the spotlight in the 1970s.

Neighbors initially fought the 2,500-home gated community in a public battle dubbed “the Blackhawk Wars,” but the project moved forward in the late 1970s after developer Ken Behring scaled back his plans. Today the development of 9,400 residents features two clubhouses, a pair of golf courses, 20 tennis courts, and two swimming pools.

Six individual communities comprise Blackhawk, offering a variety of settings, all with fantastic views and access to amenities. They are: Hidden Oaks, Oakridge, Saddleback, Silver Maple, the Blackhawk Country Club, and condominium development Silver Oak.

Students attend the highly ranked San Ramon Valley Unified School District, which received an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 927 out of 1,000 in 2012. Nearby private schools include the Athenian School and St. Isidore School in Danville.

The community also boasts its own shopping center, Blackhawk Plaza, with a seven-screen movie theater, Anthropologie store, Draeger’s Market, and Blackhawk Grille restaurant. The Blackhawk Museum, formerly called the Behring Auto Museum, focuses on one-of-a-kind automobiles and attracts car lovers to the area.

Because numerous builders participated in the development, Blackhawk homes for sale vary in style and range significantly in price from about $800,000 to as much as $20 million, Anderson said.

In October 2012 the median sale price for a single-family Blackhawk home increased 8 percent to $1.08 million, up from $1 million a year earlier, according to MLS data. The number of homes for sale fell 2.5 percent in the same period, and those under contract increased 17 percent.

Homes tend to turn over more frequently in Blackhawk compared with nearby Diablo, where just 21 properties sold between October 2011 and October 2012. During the same 12 months, 67 single-family homes sold in Blackhawk.

A number of celebrities and sports luminaries have called Blackhawk home, including Cal Bears head coach Jeff Tedford, who listed his five-bedroom home for $5.35 million earlier this year.

"Like a Lot of Marin, Best for Families"

Great schools? Check. Beautiful weather and a thriving downtown? Absolutely.

The town of San Anselmo has all those things, plus a convenient location in the heart of Marin near trails, parks, shops, and restaurants.

Part of the highly ranked Ross Valley School District, San Anselmo is a great place to raise children and attracts many young families. In 2012 the district earned an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 925 out of 1,000. Older students attend the Tamalpais Union High School District, which received a score of 871.

Once a stop on the North Pacific Coast Railroad, the town’s population began growing after the San Francisco Theological Seminary was built in 1892. Today around 12,500 people call San Anselmo home.

The theological seminary remains active, and a lovely neighborhood close to downtown with larger homes and some cottages has sprung up around it. The nearby Seminary Hill area offers stunning views and easy access to trails and outdoor activities.

The Brookside neighborhood to the north of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard enjoys a strong sense of community, and residents tend to stay for many years, even after their children leave home, according to one of our top San Anselmo real estate professionals.

To the north of town, the unincorporated community of Sleepy Hollow features custom-built homes on large lots, with beautiful trees and an East-Coast feel.

A number of beloved shops and restaurants line San Anselmo Boulevard and Sir Francis Drake, including longtime favorite Comforts café, Insalata’s Mediterranean food, Hilda’s Coffee Shop, and many boutiques and antique stores.

San Anselmo homes for sale range in price from about $650,000 to $3 million or higher. In November 2012, the average sale price of a single-family home increased 21 percent to $975,000, up from $804,300 a year earlier, according to MLS data.

Sales activity in the town tends to taper off in the winter months since many buyers have young children.
  • Schools
  • Weather
  • Pricey

"Mainly for Skiers but Some Summer Activities"

Squaw Valley is one of the largest and most popular ski resorts near Lake Tahoe, made famous as the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. But it’s also a thriving residential community with stunning mountaintop vistas at every turn and year-round activities.

The resort is active in the summer months with live concerts, numerous festivals, and plenty of opportunities for golfing, hiking, swimming, tennis, and horseback riding amid pristine Sierra landscapes.

Wintertime, however, is what put Squaw Valley on the map. The Squaw Valley ski resort includes 3,600 ski-able acres, 177 trails, and 30 chairlifts, rising from 6,200 feet above sea level at its base to 9,050 feet at the top of Granite Chief, the tallest of its six peaks.

Ski season runs from November through May, attracting 600,000 skiers a year.

The resort first opened in 1949 and attracted global attention in 1960 when it hosted the Winter Olympic Games. It was the first Winter Olympics to be televised live, making the games accessible to millions of viewers and showcasing the Sierra Nevada mountains and Lake Tahoe like never before.

Squaw Valley has grown considerably since then, and today includes nearly 750 single-family homes, including 15 subdivisions and several condominium complexes.

At the foot of the ski resort is The Village at Squaw Valley, a popular retail district with restaurants, shops, and bars in an atmosphere reminiscent of an Alpine village, complete with cobblestone streets and a central plaza. Additional shops are in Truckee, 12 miles to the north, and Tahoe City, eight miles to the southeast.

The first homes in the area were built in the 1950s, near the ski resort, with newer housing developments constructed farther east along Squaw Creek. Among the newer developments are six private communities: Squaw Summit, Hidden Lake, Homesites at Squaw Creek, Painted Rock, Squaw Creek Estates, and Creekside Estates.

Hotel and condo complexes include Resort at Squaw Creek, Squaw Valley Lodge, and The Village at Squaw Valley, together totaling 725 units, plus more than a dozen smaller condo complexes nearby.

The median sale price for single-family homes in Squaw Valley was $730,000 in November 2012, down from $780,000 a year earlier, according to MLS data. For condos, the median sale price was $323,500, up from $309,000 a year earlier.

"Typical Sonoma Suburb"

Santa Rosa‘s Skyhawk neighborhood isn’t for everybody, but for a certain subset of homebuyers it’s absolutely perfect.

Skyhawk is a development of nearly 500 homes at the northeastern edge of Santa Rosa. It’s a relatively new community, with homes built from the mid-1990s to 2005.

Homes here typically sell for $600,000 to $800,000, attracting young couples and families.

The public schools, which are among the best in Santa Rosa, are another big draw.

Austin Creek Elementary School is recognized as one of the finest elementary schools in Sonoma County, with an Academic Performance Index (API) score of 934 out of a possible 1,000. Maria Carrillo High School has an API of 864, the highest of Santa Rosa’s five high schools, and recently received a California Distinguished School designation from the state Department of Education.

Residents joke that Skyhawk is a self-contained community, almost separate from the rest of Santa Rosa, and to a degree they’re right. A stylish shopping center is included in the development: Skyhawk Village, home to chef Lisa Hemenway’s Fresh restaurant and market and a half-dozen other shops. Another shopping center is nearby, with a Safeway supermarket and other retail stores.

And when the homes in Skyhawk seem a bit closed-in, a walk to Annadel State Park, just across Highway 12, offers a quick counterpoint: miles of trails, a fishing lake, thickly wooded hillsides, and open land bursting with wildflowers on more than 5,000 acres of protected land.

Skyhawk is a sought-after community. Currently, only one home is for sale there, and at least six people are looking to buy, our real estate professional said. Thirteen homes in Skyhawk have sold in the past year, and four are in escrow.

Most of the homes measure 2,000 to 4,000 square feet on relatively small lots, but a quarter are larger, sitting on prime, one-third-acre to 1-acre lots.
  • Schools
  • Annadel State Park
  • Safe
  • A Bit Dull

"Ideal for Raising a Family"

Not to be confused with the New York village from the short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Marin County’s Sleepy Hollow is a family-friendly community nestled in unincorporated San Anselmo at the Fairfax border.

Known familiarly as “the Hollow,” the community has been home to a dairy farm; a secret ammunition storage depot for the U.S. Army; the country’s second-largest play-as-you-go golf course; and a lavish mansion complete with theater, dance pavilion, and many well-attended parties.

Today, it’s one of the best places in Marin to raise a family.

Sleepy Hollow includes about 800 homes of varied styles, such as traditional, modern, Spanish, and ranch, as well as 15 custom-built Eichler homes — something for everyone. Sleepy Hollow homes for sale tend to range in price from about $800,000 to $2.5 million.

Many neighborhood children attend Brookside Elementary School, which earned a state Academic Performance Index, or API, score of 946 out of 1,000 in 2012; White Hill Middle School (API 923), and Sir Francis Drake High School (API 850). There are also several private schools nearby, and the neighborhood boasts its own early-education option, the Sleepy Hollow Nursery School.

Sleepy Hollow is located near numerous amenities. The town of Fairfax, less than a mile away, is home to an eclectic collection of shops and Good Earth Natural Foods, the local organic health market.

The nearby Red Hill Shopping Center features a Safeway and other stores. Downtown San Anselmo offers a variety of restaurants, shops, and the San Anselmo Coffee Roastery, a favorite spot among locals for sipping coffee, chatting, and listening to music.

For outdoor enthusiasts, there are numerous hiking trails in Sleepy Hollow and surrounding areas, including the Cataract Falls waterfall hike, particularly spectacular after a rainstorm.

A strong sense of community may be Sleepy Hollow’s most noteworthy quality. Around three quarters of residents belong to the Sleepy Hollow Homeowner’s Association, and the community includes a clubhouse and pool, which is home to the Marin Swim League’s top team, the Sleepy Hollow Sea Lions.

The Boy Scouts of America San Anselmo Troop 50 has called Sleepy Hollow home for the past 60 years. Neighborhood events include the annual 4th of July Parade and BBQ, summer happy hours, and a holiday children’s party.

Perhaps the only downside to living in Sleepy Hollow is its single access road, the 2-mile Butterfield Road. But not everyone thinks having just one way in and out of town is a bad thing.
  • Great Schools
  • Cataract Falls Hike
  • Peaceful

"The Very High End of Napa Valley"

A thriving residential community is hiding in plain sight at Napa’s prestigious Silverado Resort and Spa.

Silverado is known for its two championship golf courses, its relaxing spa, and its manicured grounds in the heart of the Napa Valley. But hundreds of residents call it home, too, in a dozen neighborhoods across the resort property.

The resort includes more than 500 condominiums — split between full-time residents and those who keep second homes and rental units there – plus several hundred single-family homes.

Residents are not required to keep a Silverado membership with access to the golf courses and other amenities, but most are members. New residents pay a $40,000 transfer fee for membership.

Most of the residents today are grown, although children are welcome at Silverado and the resort hosts a variety of activities for young people throughout the year.

Silverado’s modern history dates to 1955, when the semiprivate Silverado Golf Course opened. Before that, the property had been a private estate named La Vergne, first owned by a Union general in the Civil War, John F. Miller, who built a mansion there in 1870.

The landmark mansion still stands, although today it’s home to the resort’s registration desk, as well as two restaurants, a lounge, and several meeting rooms. Outside, an expansive deck overlooks the 18th green of the South Golf Course.

Silverado refashioned itself as a high-end country club and resort in 1966, when residential development began. Development has continued ever since, and today the resort boasts 13 tennis courts and 10 swimming pools in addition to the two golf courses, the spa, and a recently expanded conference center.

The mix of condos and single-family homes at Silverado is matched by a wide range of home prices. Condos have been selling recently from $200,000 to $1.5 million, while single-family homes sell for $600,000 to $5.5 million.
  • Extremely Safe
  • Very Expensive

"Friendly and Relaxing"

Famed for its hot springs and spas and surrounded by the rolling vineyards that put Napa County on the map, the city of Calistoga is an ideal destination for visitors who need to check out of the rat race for a minute. But longtime residents cite the city’s small-town feel and friendly atmosphere as the main pluses that compel people to come back and stay.

Located 27 miles north of the city of Napa on state Route 29, Calistoga is the northernmost incorporated city in the county. It is also one of the smallest, with a population of just 5,200.

Originally founded in the 1860s as a hot-springs resort meant to rival Saratoga, N.Y., Calistoga has held on to its relaxation-friendly roots. Today, the city is home to more than 15 spas and resorts, where visitors can unwind in mineral pools and mud baths, take in a massage, or enjoy the area’s temperate climate by simply hanging out on the grounds.

Solage Calistoga, one of the city’s newer resorts, features Solbar, the only Michelin-rated restaurant in the city and one of just eight in the Napa Valley region. Solbar serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch–depending on the day of the week–and bills its cuisine as “California soul food.” Chef Brandon Sharp’s resume includes stints at two renown Bay Area restaurants: The French Laundry and Gary Danko.

Then there’s the other relaxant that Calistoga and Napa Valley are famous for: wine. Calistoga residents enjoy easy access to more than 30 local wineries that produce a wide variety of both red and white wines. Tasting fees range from $5 to $45 dollars, but most hover in the $10-to-$20 range.

With a quaint and compact downtown area centered on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Washington Street, Calistoga is easy to explore on foot. You can buy almost anything you need in downtown Calistoga, and nearly 10 restaurants and bars line a short, two-block stretch of Lincoln.

Calistoga homes are built in a variety of architectural styles, including ranch, Mediterranean, farmhouse, and Cape Cod. In July 2013, the median sales price for a single-family home in the city was $612,000, a year-over-year decrease of 34 percent but still 17.5 percent above current prices in Napa County as a whole. Unlike many other cities in the Bay Area, where inventory constraints favor sellers, Calistoga is a more-balanced market, with a 5.3-month supply of inventory as of July.
  • Mellow
  • Wine
  • Relaxing
  • A Bit Remote
Recommended for
  • Tourists
  • Country Lovers

"The Name Says It All....."

Known for its mouth-watering eateries — including Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Restaurant, Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood is also a great place to call home.

The business district centers on Shattuck Avenue and grew up around three late-1960s and early-1970s fixtures that remain today: the Cheese Board Collective, Chez Panisse, and the very first Peet’s Coffee & Tea.

Cheese Board, operated as a worker-owned collective since 1971, runs a cheese shop and bakery as well as a popular pizzeria, which attracts crowds of pie-lovers to the area. It’s not unusual to see long lines of patrons waiting eagerly for a slice.

Other favorites include César tapas bar, Gregoire, Masse’s Pastries, and Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen, which typically gets so crowded on Christmas Day that a latke food truck will serve customers outside. The neighborhood also boasts a variety of boutiques and children’s shops.

Live Oak Park at 1301 Shattuck features picnic areas, basketball and volleyball courts, an art and garden center, and two play areas for children.

Commuting to San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area is a snap, with both the Downtown Berkeley and North Berkeley BART stations nearby. Many Silicon Valley tech companies also have shuttle stops in the area.

Gourmet Ghetto homes for sale vary in style although many qualify as charming California bungalows. The neighborhood includes some structures from celebrated architects like Julia Morgan.

As in many parts of Berkeley and the East Bay, demand for quality, well-priced homes has outstripped supply in recent months. Such homes tend to attract multiple offers, with some going for $100,000 over the asking price.
  • Restaurants
  • Easy Commute
  • Sunny
  • Not cheap

"Huge Houses, Sweeping Bay Views"

Presidio Heights has some of San Francisco’s largest homes, on enviably ­private and quiet lots. Add that to sweeping views, great neighborhood shopping and dining, and easy access to the Presidio, and it’s clear why the area remains among the most expensive in the city.

The neighborhood boundaries run east-west from Presidio Avenue to Arguello Boulevard, and north-south from Pacific Avenue to California Street.

Most Presidio Heights homes for sale date from the early 1900s to the 1930s and are primarily Edwardian in style. Prices for condominiums and single-family residences range from $900,000 to well over $10 million.

Earlier this month, a six-bedroom home at 3524 Jackson St. sold for $12.5 million, and in 2005 former Gap CEO Mickey Drexler sold his Willis Polk-designed home for an undisclosed sum after listing it for $27 million.

In addition to its gracious, large homes, Presidio Heights offers residents easy access to numerous stores and restaurants in the Sacramento and Fillmore shopping districts and at Laurel Village, home to high-end grocery stores Cal-Mart and Bryan’s Grocery, Noah’s New York Bagels, Books Inc., and Rigolo Cafe & Restaurant.

Other neighborhood favorites include Garibaldi’s Restaurant, elegant eatery Spruce, popular brunch spot Magic Flute Garden Ristorante, and Yoko’s Designs in Flowers and Plantings. To catch a movie, head to the Vogue Theatre at Sacramento and Presidio or the Clay Theatre on Fillmore Street.

Julius Kahn Playground & Clubhouse at Jackson and Spruce offers two play structures, a sand pit, tennis courts, and soccer and baseball fields. Located at Clay and Walnut streets, the Presidio Heights Playground recently underwent a significant renovation thanks to a community group.

For families with children, many excellent schools are located nearby including San Francisco University High School, the Drew School, Town School for Boys, the Hamlin School, and Stuart Hall & Convent of the Sacred Heart.

To take in one of the most spectacular views in the city, head to the Lyon Street steps at Pacific and Lyon, which overlook the Palace of Fine Arts, the ocean, and beyond.
  • Stunning Architecture
  • Incredible Views
  • Near the Presidio
  • very expensive

"180 Degrees Different From 15 Years Ago"

A former industrial area, San Francisco’s South of Market area, or SoMa, offers an interesting mix of swanky restaurants, popular nightclubs, startup culture, seedy residential hotels, and multimillion-dollar condos.

Despite low inventory levels, 2012 was a busy year for SoMa with 218 condominiums, lofts, and tenancies-in-common selling in the 12-month period, according to MLS data. In December the median sale price for such units increased 21 percent to $615,000, up from $509,000 a year earlier.

SoMa condominiums for sale in sought-after buildings can go for well over $1 million.

Well-known SoMa condominium and loft buildings include the Heublein building at 601 Fourth St., the Jackson Brewery at 1489 Folsom St., the Lighthouse Lofts, and the SoMa Grand.

Once nicknamed “South of the Slot” for its location on the wrong side of the cable car tracks, SoMa is now a hotbed of nightlife and a dining mecca. Numerous clubs line Folsom and surrounding streets, and each September the neighborhood hosts the Folsom Street Fair, a wildly popular leather and fetish event.

Favorite SoMa eateries include Fringale French restaurant, Coco500 restaurant and bar, Basil Thai restaurant, and AQ Restaurant & Bar. The neighborhood even boasts a combination cafe and laundromat: BrainWash.

Home to many startups and multimedia companies, SoMa boasts a definite arty vibe. Some of the city’s best museums, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, are nearby in the Yerba Buena neighborhood.
  • Walkable
  • Easy To Get Around
  • Great food
  • Some Corners Dicey
  • Some run-down areas
  • Maybe a little too trendy

"Pretty Typical of the Lamorinda Area"

Conveniently located next to Lafayette and Orinda, the town of Moraga is home to Saint Mary’s College of California, beautiful weather, and an excellent school system.

Named after Joaquin Moraga — a grandson of Jose Joaquin Moraga, credited with founding the Presidio of San Francisco — the town of Moraga was a ranching and farming community for many years.

In fact, most of the roads, businesses, and homes in Moraga today didn’t exist until after 1960.

Moraga homes for sale tend to range in price from $400,000 for less-expensive condominiums to more than $1 million for higher-end single-family homes. Homes at the Moraga Country Club are among the most sought-after.

The club features an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, a 25-meter swimming pool, and a clubhouse with restaurant and bar.

In December 2012, the number of condominiums and single-family homes for sale in Moraga plummeted almost 60 percent from a year earlier, while the number of residences sold swelled from one to nine, according to MLS data.

While many residents opt to shop and dine in nearby Orinda and Lafayette, the town of 16,000 offers a number of businesses, including those at the Rheem Valley Shopping Center. Asia Palace Restaurant, Ristorante Amoroma, and Chef Chao Restaurant are among the town’s more popular eateries.

The New Rheem Theatre, built in the 1950s, offers a range of independent, documentary, and family films in a historic setting.

The town remains popular among young families for its high-ranking schools. In 2012 the Moraga School District earned an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 961 out of 1,000, while Campolindo High School received a 922.

Perhaps the only drawback to living in this lovely town with views of the rolling Contra Costa hills is its single road to the freeway, Moraga Way. Still, commuting should get somewhat easier for all Lamorinda residents as workers finalize improvements to the Caldecott Tunnel this year.
  • Warm summers
  • Great schools
  • Very Safe
  • Expensive
  • Isolated

"Easy to Get to Oakland and San Francisco"

With its hilly terrain, excellent schools, and proximity to the Caldecott Tunnel, Orinda remains a sought-after city to call home.

The city of nearly 18,000 also boasts its own BART station, making commuting by public transit a snap.

Orinda homes for sale tend to go for a higher price point than those in neighboring cities, with single-family homes ranging from $900,000 to as high as $5 million, Anderson said.

In January the average sale price of single-family homes was $1.2 million, up 13 percent from a year earlier, according to MLS data. Meanwhile, the months’ supply of inventory tumbled 70 percent to 2.2 months, compared with 7.2 months in January 2012.

While inventory has remained constrained throughout the city, homes at the 250-acre Orinda Country Club are especially desirable. The club features a golf course, an award-winning swim program, clubhouse, and tennis and fitness facilities.

New developments are also under way, including the Wilder subdivision, set on 1,600 acres of land off Highway 24. The Orinda Senior Apartments at 2 Irwin Way will feature 67 below-market-rate rental units for seniors.

Orinda’s highly ranked schools have long attracted young families to the area. In 2012 the city’s elementary schools earned an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 964 out of 1,000 – the top number in Contra Costa County.

Fans of the arts also have many options in Orinda. The art deco Orinda Theatre, built in 1941, shows contemporary films and hosts the California Independent Film Festival each year.

The California Shakespeare Theater’s Bruns Amphitheater is also located in town.

When it comes to dining and shopping, the city offers numerous businesses in the Orinda Theatre Square area, downtown, and in the Orinda Village neighborhood. Favorite eateries include Barbacoa, Table 24, and the Casa Orinda Restaurant & Bar, in business for about 80 years.

Last year, Forbes and Nextdoor ranked Orinda the second-friendliest town in America, citing its high home ownership rate, low crime, and Fourth of July parade.
  • Almost no crime
  • Quiet
  • BART
  • Expensive
  • No Nightlife

"A Slice of East Coast in NorCal"

Known for its East Coast feel, beautiful tree-lined streets, and elegant homes, San Rafael’s Dominican neighborhood also offers great walkability and convenience.

The neighborhood, sometimes called Black Canyon, surrounds Dominican University of California, from which it gets its name. Its convenient location just east of Highway 101 gives residents easy access to the freeway, the Montecito Plaza Shopping Center, and lovely open space areas.

Though its history dates back as far as 1850, the school that eventually became Dominican University arrived in San Rafael in 1889, expanding to a junior college in 1915 and a four-year institution in 1917. Today, the university offers many perks to its neighbors, from access to the Conlan Recreation Center with a pool, gymnasium, and tennis courts, to various on-campus talks and activities.

In 2010 Dominican landed in the spotlight when it hosted a gubernatorial debate between then-candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman.

Dominican homes for sale range from around $800,000 to $3 million and beyond, our real estate professional said. Styles include ranch homes and turn-of-the-century Victorians, which tend to carry heftier price tags.

Part of the neighborhood’s charm is its walkability. The university’s manicured grounds offer pleasant walking routes, and there are plenty of trails in the open spaces to the east and the north and at Barbier Park.

More than 50 restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are located within a 30-minute walk of the neighborhood in downtown San Rafael and other areas. A Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s are also located nearby.

The neighborhood’s Marin Tennis Club boasts 12 courts, eight of which are lit for night play. The facility also has an exercise room, swimming pool, saunas, and a full-service cafe.

Marin Ballet is also located in Dominican.

With the neighborhood’s great proximity to Highway 101 and easy access to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, it’s no surprise that Dominican residents have one of the shortest commutes in the U.S. — most spend less than 15 minutes getting to work.
  • Walkable
  • Short Commutes
  • Expensive

"Quaint and Walkable Downtown Area"

The city of Sonoma is careful to protect its rich historic legacy.

Sonoma Plaza, with the stone City Hall at its center, was the scene of the Bear Flag Revolt in 1846, and the 1823 Mission San Francisco Solano stands nearby. The retail district surrounding the plaza is studded with ornate buildings from the early decades of the last century.

That history is also reflected in Sonoma’s East Side neighborhood, just beyond the plaza, where adobe-brick houses sit alongside Victorian and Craftsman homes that are themselves relics of an earlier age.

Many East Side homes are located in what some residents call the “golden rectangle,” bounded roughly by East Napa Street, Fifth Street East, East MacArthur Street, and Broadway. Residents here are able to keep the car parked and walk to some of the finest amenities of downtown Sonoma – restaurants, retail shops, the Sebastiani Theatre, and historic sites.

Many of the “newer” homes in the neighborhood were built between the 1920s and the 1950s, and as such, have mature landscaping and present a well-maintained, homogenous streetscape that is rare in many cities today.

Even some of the newest homes on the East Side look like they’ve been there for generations. The Armstrong Estates development features newly built luxury homes in classical styles, with extra attention paid to period details. Built-to-order homes there sell for $2 million and higher, with half of the 53 homes sites completed, many of them in the Craftsman style.

The East Side is popular among retirees, and many residents keep second homes in the neighborhood — but there are plenty of families with young children as well. Prestwood Elementary School is in the neighborhood, at 343 E. MacArthur St., and Adele Harrison Middle School and Sonoma Valley High School are nearby on Broadway.

Not surprisingly, East Side homes are some of the most desirable in the city. Turnover is relatively infrequent, and homes that are priced fairly sell quickly.

Home values dropped less in the East Side than in other Sonoma neighborhoods during the recent housing market troubles and have since rebounded.

Typical homes in the neighborhood sell for $700,000 to $800,000, with high-end properties going for $1.3 million and higher.
  • walkable

"Much Nicer Than Neighboring Haight in My Opinion...."

With its old-fashioned “Main Street,” lovely cafes and restaurants, and proximity to public transit, Haight Street, and Golden Gate Park, Cole Valley has become a sought-after San Francisco neighborhood.

The sound of Muni’s N-Judah train rattling along Carl Street is a neighborhood fixture – and the train itself makes commuting to downtown via public transit a snap. A number of buses, including the 43 Masonic, 6 Parnassus, and 37 Corbett, also service the neighborhood.

Cole Valley and surrounding residential areas Parnassus Heights and Buena Vista/Ashbury Heights remain popular among University of California at San Francisco employees and students given their proximity to the school’s Parnassus campus and hospital.

Doctors and nurses clad in scrubs are a common sight along Cole Street and at the La Boulange Bakery at Cole and Parnassus Avenue.

Just down the street, French restaurant Zazie is a wildly popular brunch spot, with crowds of hungry diners filling the sidewalk outside on weekends as they wait for tables. Cole Hardware, in the neighborhood since 1920, remains a landmark business and sells a variety of housewares, plants, and painting supplies.

In operation since 1976, Say Cheese offers artisan cheeses, wine, and delicious sandwiches, among other treats. And the Ice Cream Bar, a 1930s-style soda fountain and lunch counter that opened in 2012, delights diners with its homemade floats, malts, and inventive ice cream flavors.

The neighborhood’s hilly areas offer sweeping views of downtown, the University of San Francisco, and Golden Gate Park.

Stunning and secluded, streets such as Edgewood Avenue, Willard Street, and Belmont Avenue lead to beautiful Mount Sutro, a lush, forested reserve with many hiking trails. Last year famed San Francisco author Armistead Maupin sold his Belmont Avenue home for $1.64 million, more than $400,000 above the asking price.

Cole Valley homes for sale include lovely Victorians, classic San Francisco condominiums, and more modern abodes. In February the median price for a condominium in Parnassus/Ashbury Heights was $1.08 million, according to MLS data.

In the Buena Vista Park area, the median sale price for a condominium in February was $977,000.

Over the last several years, prices in Cole Valley/Parnassus Heights have increased sharply, with some record sales.
  • Plenty of restaurants/bars
  • Parking is rough

"People Are Finally Starting to Figure This One Out....."

Spending time in Oakland’s Glenview neighborhood makes it easy to forget you’re in the middle of a major metropolitan city. As high rents and home prices push more and more people out of San Francisco, this once off-the-radar neighborhood is starting to stand out more.

The Craftsman-style bungalows and well-tended front yards remind you of a small town somewhere far removed. Neighbors linger over coffee at restaurants and cafes and browse the shops along the small but lively commercial district on Park Boulevard.

It’s a place residents are glad to call home.

Glenview is located in the Oakland foothills, almost in the center of the city, bordered by Dimond Park and Sausal Creek to the east and Park Boulevard to the west, between Highway 13 and Interstate 580.

In recent years, Glenview has developed a reputation for fine dining. Bellanico, Marzano, Rumbo al Sur, Sushi Park, and Blackberry Bistro – all located in the 4200 block of Park Boulevard — attract diners from across the East Bay and beyond. In a 2009 review, Diablo Magazine called Glenview “Oakland’s Gourmet Ghetto.”

But it’s the homes in Glenview that turn visitors into residents.

Pacific Union’s top real estate professional in Glenview calls them “architectual gems” — the classic Craftsman and Mediterranean-style homes, many dating from the 1920s and ’30s, that make streetscapes look like postcard views.

Home sales in Glenview nearly doubled from 2011 to 2012, and prices rose 15 percent. They’ve gone up another 10 percent so far this year, a testament to the neighborhood’s appeal.

In 2012 two-bedroom homes in Glenview sold for an average price of $551,000, and three-bedroom homes went for $665,000.

Community groups like the Glenview Neighborhood Association are quite active, and the Glenview Neighborhood page on Facebook tracks local events and alerts residents to criminal activity in the area. Additional information is available on the Glenfriends Wiki page.

Public schools in the neighborhood include the highly regarded Glenview Elementary School and Edna Brewer Middle School. Older students attend Skyline High School.
  • Good Location
  • Nice and Mellow

"Classic, Old-School San Francisco"

One of San Francisco’s most classic neighborhoods, North Beach offers vibrant nightlife and dining, proximity to downtown, and a rich cultural history.

Also called Little Italy, North Beach was once an Italian-American neighborhood home to baseball great Joe DiMaggio and former San Francisco mayor Joseph L. Alioto. In the 1950s the neighborhood became a hangout of Beat Generation writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

In 1953 Ferlinghetti founded City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, which still offers a wonderful selection of books at Broadway and Columbus Avenue. Numerous striptease establishments and other nightclubs line Broadway including the famous Condor Club, which opened in 1964.

Beach Blanket Babylon, billing itself as America’s longest-running musical revue, continues to attract crowds of tourists and locals alike.

Coit Tower in Pioneer Park is one of San Francisco’s most beloved landmarks, and a flock of green parrots have long made Telegraph Hill their home.

North Beach boasts numerous restaurants and cafes. Some favorites include former beatnik hangout Caffe Trieste, the 75-year-old Original Joe’s, Park Tavern with its delicious smoked deviled eggs and Marlowe burger, and Liguria Bakery, a classic establishment that remains open each day until it runs out of focaccia.

A line regularly snakes down the street for brunch at Mama’s on Washington Square. A lot of the Italian places on Columbus cater to tourists, but you can easily track down more "authentic" places on the side streets. (See Sodini's near the corner of Grant and Green.)

Many North Beach homes for sale date back to the 1910s and 1920s. In addition to a large number of apartments, the neighborhood offers a range of condominiums, two- and four-unit buildings, and some single-family homes.

In February 2013 the median price for a North Beach condominium jumped 49 percent to $895,000, up from $599,500 a year earlier, according to MLS data.
  • great for walking
  • great night spots
  • great restaurants
  • Lots of tourists
  • noisy 24/7

"Currently the Hottest Bay Area City for Real Estate"

With its excellent schools, central location, and great weather, Corte Madera has become one of Marin County’s most sought-after towns, particularly for families with young children. In fact, Corte Madera's months' supply of inventory (MSI) was 0.4 as of August 6, 2013, making it the hottest market in the Bay Area at that time.

While Corte Madera lacks a classic downtown with “main street,” the town of 9,400 is home to two major upscale malls: the Village at Corte Madera and the Town Center Corte Madera. The town shares various services, including police and schools, with Larkspur, and locals refer to the two municipalities as the Twin Cities.

Corte Madera residents in search of a traditional downtown head to Larkspur’s historic Magnolia Avenue for dining and shopping at small local businesses.

The Larkspur-Corte Madera School District enjoys an excellent reputation and in 2012 earned a state Academic Performance Index score of 919 out of 1,000. Due to swelling enrollment, the district is building a new school in east Corte Madera, scheduled to welcome 325 students in fall 2014.

A small number of east Corte Madera children attend the highly ranked Reed Union School District in Tiburon. The Tamalpais Union High School District serves Corte Madera’s high school students.

Town Park, a large park with tennis courts, a recreation center, sport fields, lagoon, and skating area, serves as a gathering place for the community.

Corte Madera homes for sale range in price from $650,000 to $3 million for single-family residences, with the majority in the $1 million zone, he added.

Homes on the west side of town tend to be a bit costlier than those on the east side, where popular neighborhoods include Madera del Presidio and Mariner Cove. Chapman Park, Lakeside Drive, and Christmas Tree Hill, with its winding streets and sweeping views, are among the most popular west side neighborhoods.

Like much of the Bay Area, Corte Madera has experienced a shortage of homes for sale amid increasing demand from buyers in recent months. In March the number of single-family homes for sale were down 62 percent from a year earlier, while homes sold shot up 100 percent, according to MLS data.
  • Great schools
  • Good weather
  • Close proximity to Mt. Tam

"Small-Town Vibe, Still Close to Santa Rosa"

In the Sonoma County town of Windsor, community life centers on the Town Green.

The 4.5-acre park in the middle of town is home to a farmers market, free outdoor concerts, holiday celebrations, and summertime movie nights. It holds a children’s play area, band shelter, fountain, and a stand of oak trees more than 200 years old.

The Town Green is a civic treasure that helps explain Windsor’s reputation as a family-friendly small town with an outsized sense of community.

Windsor, located along Highway 101 north of Santa Rosa, traces its history back 150 years. Housing development blossomed in the 1980s and 1990s, and today the town’s 27,000 residents enjoy amenities missing in many larger cities, including numerous walking and hiking trails, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities. Foothill Regional Park is within the town limits, and Shiloh Ranch Regional Park and the Russian River are nearby.

The Sonoma County airport is also close, and Santa Rosa is a 10-minute drive. Many wineries are located in the area, and Windsor proudly calls itself the gateway to the Wine Country.

Windsor’s thriving business district surrounds the Town Green, with a unique commercial and residential development called Town Green Village.

The Village covers 14 acres with three-story, mixed-use buildings bearing facades that look like they were built a century earlier. Retail stores, restaurants, and professional offices occupy first-floor storefronts, with two-story condominiums above.

Condos in Town Green Village sell for $300,000 to $450,000. The median sales price in Windsor is $375,000, with homes ranging from $150,000 condos to $4 million Wine Country estates.

The demand for homes far exceeds the current supply, and multiple bids are common, according to one of Pacific Union’s top real estate professionals in the area. Homes sell quickly, often going into escrow after just a week to 10 days on the market

Four-bedroom, three-bath homes measuring around 2,100 square feet and selling for $450,000 to $525,000 are typical in Windsor today, our real estate professional said, and the town attracts buyers of all sorts: young parents looking for a a nice community in which to raise their children, investors seeking to take advantage of a strong renters’ market, relocating business executives, older couples looking to downsize from country homes, and senior citizens in search of a safe community with plenty of activities available.
  • Beautiful area and temporate weather
  • Safe and quiet small town feel
  • Far from San Francisco
  • Not tons of culture

"It's All About the Park"

I lived here for six years and would still take Golden Gate Park as a tradeoff for the fog any day. Yes, the fog gets pretty old in the summer. But on sunny days, you're a 20-minute bike ride from the beach, and once you've lived here for a while, you'll learn areas of the park that tourists will never visit.

Situated just west of the Haight-Ashbury and Cole Valley neighborhoods and about three miles east of the Pacific Ocean, the Inner Sunset is far enough away from downtown that you might forget you’re still in San Francisco.

Still, commuting via public transportation is as easy as it is in most other parts of the city, largely due to the N-Judah light rail train, which makes nearly 10 stops in the neighborhood. Several bus lines – including the 71-Haight and 6-Parnassus – also offer access to downtown areas.

Locals consider the corner of 9th Avenue and Irving Street the Inner Sunset’s epicenter, and both streets are lined with a multitude of local dining and shopping options. Within just a few blocks’ walk, foodies can choose from sushi at Ebisu, comfort food at Park Chow, freshly baked pizza at Arizmendi Bakery, or Siamese cuisine at Marnee Thai. Local stores sell everything from hardware to vintage clothing to magic supplies. Andronico’s Community Market is the neighborhood’s dedicated grocery store, and a farmers’ market sets up shop every Sunday year-round.

Those who partake in sports and outdoor activities will find a lot to like about the Inner Sunset, in spite of the frequent fog. The neighborhood’s location on the south side of Golden Gate Park means that runners, bikers, and hikers can indulge their passions without straying far from home. Tennis courts, a fly-casting pond, soccer and baseball fields, and a golf course can all be found within the park’s boundaries.

The 1,000-acre urban oasis – which stretches all the way to Ocean Beach – also offers plenty of cultural and natural attractions and events. Golden Gate Park fixtures include the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and the Conservatory of Flowers. And if that weren’t enough, the park hosts numerous music festivals throughout the year, including Outside Lands in August and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in October.

Edwardian- and Victorian-style homes abound in the Inner Sunset, lending the neighborhood a classic San Francisco feel. Median single-family home prices in the Inner Sunset hit $1.28 million in May 2013, according to MLS data, a year-over-year spike of 24 percent and the second-highest peak in the past two years. Median home prices in the Inner Sunset are currently 35 percent higher than they are in District 2 overall.

Median sales prices for condos in the neighborhood have risen 38 percent from a year ago, climbing to $1.43 million in June 2013.
  • Golden Gate Park
  • restaurants
  • Fog

"Super Ritzy and Pricey but Almost No Crime"

With its stunning scenery, excellent schools, and strong equestrian culture, the Contra Costa community of Alamo is a favorite among families.

Alamo is part of the highly ranked San Ramon Valley Unified School District. In 2012 the district earned an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 927 out of 1,000.

An unincorporated community of 14,600 residents, Alamo relies on the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office and San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District for emergency services. Alamo offers an easy commute with convenient access to Interstate 680.

The area is primarily residential, with stunning views of Mount Diablo and the rolling Contra Costa hills. The Alamo Plaza shopping center houses various stores, including a Safeway supermarket, and a variety of restaurants.

Other favorite eateries include the Alamo Cafe diner, Yan’s China Bistro, and Forli Ristorante. For a wider array of options, Alamo residents head to nearby Danville or Walnut Creek.

The 17-acre Hap Magee Ranch Park in Danville is a favorite spot for hiking and picnicking. The park also has a water feature for children and a dog park.

Founded in 1959, Alamo’s Round Hill Country Club offers golf, tennis, aquatics, and a restaurant. Homes that back up to the club golf course remain especially popular, Anderson said.

Other sought-after Alamo neighborhoods include the Stonegate community, Round Hill Estates North, and Alamo Ridge.

In March the average price of Alamo homes for sale were up nearly 6 percent from a year earlier at $1.13 million for single-family residences, according to MLS data.
  • Great Schools
  • Shady Redwood Lined Streets
  • Very Expensive

"History Abounds....."

History isn’t locked in a museum in Truckee. It’s everywhere you turn, and it’s accessible and welcoming.

There’s world-class skiing, of course, but in the summer months Truckee also attracts hikers, nature enthusiasts and active people of all ages and abilities, drawn by the region’s stunning beauty and crisp mountain air.

Truckee is a three-hour drive from the Bay Area and a convenient hub for those traveling farther to Reno or Lake Tahoe. Unlike nearby ski communities, Truckee offers a full array of local amenities including schools, a hospital, banks, and a wide variety of retail shops and restaurants.

Moody’s Bistro & Bar, located in the historic Truckee Hotel, remains a popular spot with residents, and musician Paul McCartney has entertained locals there on more than one occasion. The former Beatle is a regular visitor to the area, whose unannounced, closed-door sessions immediately become the talk of the town.

Other popular restaurants include Dragonfly, Cottonwood, Drunken Monkey, Manzanita (at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe), and Stella (at the Cedar House Sport Hotel).

Truckee homes for sale tend to be more affordable than those close to Lake Tahoe. The town has seen more new-home construction than other communities in recent years, with condominiums in particular demand.

Home sales are busiest from spring through the fall, as children get out of school and vacationing families visit the area.

"Lots to Do Year-Round, Even if You Don't Ski"

Situated directly on the western shore of Lake Tahoe and a few miles from three popular ski resorts, Tahoe City will certainly appeal to homebuyers looking for a seasonal getaway. However, the Placer County community offers enough year-round activities to convert second-home vacationers into full-time residents. lake_tahoe

Quick access to the slopes is often a primary consideration for homebuyers in our Tahoe/Truckee region, and skiers and snowboarders will appreciate Tahoe City’s close proximity to Homewood, Squaw Valley, and Alpine Meadows resorts, all of which are located less than 8 miles away.

Centrally located Commons Beach is a fine place to take a dip on a warm day and hosts a series of summer concerts on Sunday afternoons. Locals and visitors alike can also soak in the dramatic scenery by renting a stand-up paddleboard or kayak at Tahoe City Kayak. Alternatively, Tahoe City Marina rents both powerboats and sailboats by the hour and provides boat-storage services for owners.

Golfers can tee off at Tahoe City Golf Course, conveniently located near the community’s central business district. Hikers and mountain bikers will enjoy taking advantage of the Sierra Nevada’s fabulous fall and spring scenery at nearby Tahoe State Recreation Area and Burton Creek State Park, both of which offer miles of trails and unpaved roadways.

North Lake Boulevard, Tahoe City’s main drag, is where locals go to dine out. Restaurants lining the strip serve cuisines of all sorts, including Mexican, Thai, Chinese, and pizza. Nightlife enthusiasts also have a number of choices, including Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co., which pours more than a half-dozen locally made beers.

Tahoe City has everyday shopping necessities covered, thanks to a Safeway and a CVS pharmacy. However, residents who need items they can’t buy locally are only 15 miles south of the larger city of Truckee, which is accessible by state Route 89. From Truckee, Reno, Nev. — the largest city in the region — is a 40-minute drive east on Interstate 80.

The majority of Tahoe City homes are designed in the mountain and chalet architectural styles, complementing their natural surroundings. According to MLS data, the median sales price for single-family homes in Tahoe City was $670,000 in July 2013, a 20 percent increase from a year ago. Condos had a median sales price of $289,000, a slight year-over-year decrease of 4 percent.

"Great Views but a Bit Far From Downtown"

Perched in the hills above Noe Valley and Glen Canyon, San Francisco’s Diamond Heights neighborhood offers a small-town feel with all the amenities of the city.

Sweeping views, a suburban-style shopping center, and easy commuting are among the perks Diamond Heights residents enjoy.

The neighborhood also boasts some fabulous mid-century and Eichler homes located along twisty streets surrounding the Diamond Heights Shopping Center, with its Safeway supermarket, Walgreens, and All Season Chinese Restaurant.

The iconic St. Nicholas Orthodox Church on Diamond Heights Boulevard makes for an interesting silhouette in the hilly neighborhood and operates a daycare and preschool.

Residents enjoy easy access to an array of shops and restaurants in nearby Noe Valley and Glen Park, as well as a variety of parks, including the gorgeous and expansive Glen Canyon Park.

Various Muni metro lines and the Glen Park BART station are just a bus ride away, and freeway access is a snap via O’Shaughnessy Boulevard.

Diamond Heights homes for sale are in demand: The number of single-family homes under contract increased 50 percent in April compared with a year earlier, according to MLS data. That same month, the average sale price rose 18 percent to $1.2 million, up from $1 million in April 2012.

The neighborhood also boasts an array of condominium and apartment complexes, including the Diamond Heights Village on Red Rock Way. In April the average condominium sale price shot up 53 percent to $480,800, from $313,750 a year earlier.
  • Views
  • No Real Night LIfe

"Pretty Much Oakland's Best Neighborhood in My Opinion"

With its tree-lined streets, gourmet restaurants, charming homes, and great public transit, Rockridge remains one of Oakland’s most sought-after neighborhoods.

Located in the north part of the city, Rockridge welcomes locals and visitors alike to its vibrant commercial district along College Avenue.

Neighborhood anchors include the always-packed Zachary’s Chicago Pizza, Diesel bookstore, See Jane Run, and Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Parlor & Cafe. The area also has attracted a number of gourmet restaurants, such as Wood Tavern, Ramen Shop, and Oliveto Restaurant and Cafe.

Rockridge boasts its own BART station, making commutes to San Francisco and other parts of the East Bay a snap. Residents also enjoy easy freeway access.

Rockridge homes for sale range in style from historic cottages and bungalows to classic East Bay brown-shingled affairs. Average prices for single-family homes in the 94618 zip code — which includes Rockridge — jumped 63 percent to $1.06 million in April, up from $653,000 a year earlier, according to MLS data.

Home to several award-winning schools, Rockridge attracts many young families. In 2012 the neighborhood’s Chabot Elementary School earned a state Academic Performance Index, or API, score of 952 out of 1,000. There are also several top private-education options nearby, including the Bentley School (K-12), Park Day School (K-8), and The College Preparatory School (high school).
  • BART
  • Great Restaurants
  • Nice Shopping Area
  • Nice homes

"One of the Best Neighborhoods in Berkeley"

Elmwood is one of Berkeley’s most desirable neighborhoods, with its mix of attractive, older homes, a vibrant restaurant and shopping district, and easy access to transportation.

Elmwood is located south of the UC Berkeley campus, bounded by Telegraph Avenue on the west and Claremont Avenue on the east, as well as Dwight Way to the north and Woolsey Street to the south. At its center is the intersection of College and Ashby avenues, busy at nearly all hours of the day with patrons visiting gourmet restaurants, cafes, retail stores, and neighborhood shops.

Restaurants long popular with the locals include Trattoria La Siciliana, King Yen, and Gordo Taqueria. The neighborhood is also home to the 33-year-old Nabolom Collective Bakery, Espresso Roma Cafe, Ici ice cream parlor, and Sweet Dreams candy and toy store for children.

The landmark Rialto Cinemas Elmwood sits a few steps from the intersection, and the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts — once a church designed by the famed architect — is several blocks north.

The Claremont branch of the Berkeley Public Library is nearby, as is the 2.7-acre Willard Park. Alta Bates Summit Medical Center is on Ashby Avenue, near Telegraph.

Elmwood is home to Willard Middle School, which scored 811 out of a possible 1,000 recently on the statewide Academic Performance Index, or API. The private Maybeck High School is also in the neighborhood.

For all its relative calm, Elmwood enjoys easy access to the Berkeley and Rockridge BART stations, with Highway 24 and major through streets nearby.

Most homes in Elmwood date to the early decades of the last century, and many were designed by leading architects of the day including Julia Morgan, John Hudson Thomas, and Bernard Maybeck. The neighborhood is particularly rich in spacious, Craftsman-style homes.

Elmwood has many longtime residents, but the neighborhood continues to attract younger families as well. Because the area remains one of Berkeley’s most sought-after neighborhoods, buyers should expect fierce bidding for desirable homes.
  • Good Restaurants
  • Nice Houses
  • Expensive

"Suburbia in SF"

Conveniently located near West Portal and the Inner Sunset, San Francisco’s Forest Hill neighborhood feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

With its leafy, winding streets, architecturally significant homes, and neighborhood clubhouse, Forest Hill offers tranquility and beauty to the residents who occupy its approximately 650 homes.

Forest Hill homes for sale represent a variety of styles, and the neighborhood features designs from prominent architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Julia Morgan, and Bernard Maybeck, who also designed the clubhouse on Magellan Avenue.

In May the median sale price for a single-family home in Forest Hill was $1.3 million, according to MLS data.

The neighborhood’s stately entrance on Pacheco Street features a decorative urn, beautiful landscaping, and pedestrian steps. The Forest Hill Association, one of the few non-condo neighborhood associations in San Francisco, maintains the district’s common areas.

Opportunities for enjoying the outdoors abound in Forest Hill, which boasts a man-made forest and several nearby parks, including J.P. Murphy Playground, Golden Gate Heights Park, and Hawk Hill Park, with its stunning views of the city.

Commercial activity in the area is limited to a strip of businesses on Dewey Boulevard with several restaurants, including Sushi Shoh and French bistro Chouchou. However, an array of eateries and shops are located in nearby West Portal and the Inner Sunset, and a Mollie Stone’s supermarket is available on Portola Drive.

Transit is surprisingly good in the neighborhood, with bus service from the 6-Parnassus and numerous Muni metro lines whisking residents downtown from the Forest Hill station on Laguna Honda Boulevard.
  • Beautiful Homes
  • Quiet and Safe
  • not very walkable

"Some of the Best Real Estate Deals in Napa County"

Many visitors passing through American Canyon see the city, located on Napa County’s southern border, as a gateway to the alluring Napa Valley farther to the north.

The local residents see it differently, however.

Never mind that American Canyon sits in an enviable location — just 35 miles north of San Francisco — and never mind that state Route 29 runs through the center of town, offering easy access to both state Route 37 and Interstate 80. And never mind that Napa County Airport is just outside the city limits.

To the locals, American Canyon is an attractive destination all on its own.

The city of 19,000 residents is at the center of the fastest-growing area of Napa County. It is also home to one of the region’s newest schools, American Canyon High School, which opened in 2010 and boasts a 400-seat community theater, as well as a football stadium, baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, and a swimming pool.

American Canyon itself wasn’t incorporated as a city until 1992, after going by Napa Junction for more than 100 years.

The city has an attractive mix of midcentury homes and newer, more upscale developments.

In May the median sales price for homes was $368,000, up 42 percent from a year earlier, according to MLS data. Homes sold after an average of 48 days on the market, and sellers received an average of 5.4 percent more than their asking prices.

American Canyon offers several shopping centers, including Canyon Plaza, Canyon Corners, and a Walmart Supercenter.

Restaurants popular with local residents include All Spice Indian Restaurant and Mi Zacatecas, both on American Canyon Road, and La Strada, on Broadway Street.

"Good Weather, Not Far From Russian River"

Just seven miles west of Santa Rosa, the city of Sebastopol offers quick access to Sonoma County’s seat, while clinging to its rural, small-town roots.appletree

Incorporated in 1902, Sebastopol’s history as an apple-farming center is still apparent today by the orchards that dot the city’s outskirts. Famous for its Gravenstein variety, Sebastopol celebrates its native fruit each August during the Gravenstein Apple Fair, a weekend-long event that serves up local food, wine, and music.

The city of 7,500 enjoys about 260 sunny days per year thanks to portions of the California Coast Range, which protect it from the Pacific Ocean winds. Daytime highs during the summer months average in the mid-80s, while winter temperatures rarely dip below freezing.

Three public schools serve Sebastopol, including 1,300-student Analy High School. In 2012 Analy scored 818 out of a possible 1,000 on the state’s Academic Performance Index.

Main Street, Sebastopol’s commercial center, is home to a variety of locally owned restaurants, art galleries, and shops. Though Sebastopol has both a Safeway and a Whole Foods Market, shoppers who need access to other chain stores can hop on State Route 12 and head into Santa Rosa in less than 15 minutes. Santa Rosa is also the juncture of Highway 101, Sonoma County’s principal north-south thoroughfare and the fastest way to get to San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Nature admirers and outdoor enthusiasts have no shortage of nearby options with which to entertain themselves. Sebastopol is located just 15 miles east of the seaside town of Bodega Bay, which acts as a gateway to Highway 1’s stunning stretch of rocky coastline. To the north is the town of Guerneville, where summer pastimes include swimming and canoeing on the Russian River or sunbathing along its banks.

According to MLS data, median home prices in Sebastopol hit $650,000 in June, the highest they have been in two years and 32 percent above Sonoma County overall. Home prices spiked 17 percent from the year before, slightly lower than the 21 percent increases experienced countywide during that same period.

There were 99 Sebastopol properties on the market in June, roughly 40 percent of which were still available at the end of the month, as opposed to 30 percent in Sonoma County as a whole.
  • Great art scene
  • Plenty of outdoor activities
  • No public transportation
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5

"Plenty to Do on Solano Ave."

Home prices in the East Bay city of Albany are near their two-year highs, and it’s easy to understand why: Albany offers an ultraconvenient location for commuters, top-notch schools, sweeping waterfront vistas, and an abundance of shopping and restaurants. albany-hill-sunset-golden-gate-bridge

Located in the northwestern corner of Alameda County and adjacent to San Francisco Bay, Albany is sandwiched between Berkeley to the south, Kensington to the east, and El Cerrito to the north.

Interstate 80 stands less than a mile west of the city limits, offering commuters easy access to both the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Those who prefer to take public transportation are less than two miles away from either the North Berkeley or El Cerrito Plaza BART stations.

The mile-long stretch of Solano Avenue between San Pablo Avenue and The Alameda — parts of which are actually in Berkeley — packs more than 65 restaurants and 30 stores into a compact, pedestrian-friendly promenade. Popular delicacies with the locals include deep-dish pies at Little Star Pizza, Mexican food at Cactus Taqueria, and Nepalese cuisine at Kathmandu Restaurant. Two grocery stores – Andronico’s Market and Safeway – are also located on Solano. On the second Sunday of each September, Albany hosts the Solano Avenue Stroll, a 26-block long outdoor festival and party.

For a city of 18,000, Albany’s entertainment options are nearly as varied as its restaurants. The Landmark Albany Twin movie theater screens independent and foreign flicks, while the Ivy Room hosts live music several nights per week. Farther north on San Pablo is local institution Albany Bowl, where patrons can knock down pins on 36 lanes or catch a game at the sports bar. And those who want to try their luck with the ponies can do so at nearby Golden Gate Fields, which runs live horse races several times per week most months of the year.

Albany is home to seven public schools, including four elementary schools. In 2012, the Albany Unified School District notched an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 892 out of 1,000.

The architectural style of Albany homes includes bungalows, cottages, and Mediterranean-style houses. According to MLS data, June median home prices in the city hit $778,000, a year-over-year spike of 21 percent and slightly higher than the current $756,000 median price in Pacific Union’s East Bay region.

Inventory in Albany was just as scarce as it was in other areas of the East Bay, with 82 percent of listings either closed or under contract at the end of June.
  • Golden Gate Fields
  • Nice Shopping Area
  • Affordable Rents
  • Ugly 70's Style Apartments
  • Noisy Freeway

"Easy Commute to SF, Good School System"

Like many other cities in Contra Costa County, Walnut Creek has long been a magnet for families. Residents enjoy not only easy access to public transportation and major highways, but also the chance to send their children to some of the Bay Area’s top-rated schools. wcbart

The city of 65,000 sits at the junction of Interstate 680 and state Route 24, making for fairly straightforward drives to either San Francisco or San Jose. Even better news for commuters is Walnut Creek’s dedicated BART station, which whisks workers into downtown San Francisco in about half an hour.

Many of Walnut Creek’s elementary- and middle-school students attend a school administered by the Walnut Creek School District, which scored an overall 915 of a possible 1,000 on the state’s Academic Performance Index in 2012. Students might also go to schools located in four other highly rated districts, including Acalanes Union High School District and San Ramon Valley Unified School District, which notched API scores of 908 and 928 respectively.

Similar to the neighboring city of Danville, Walnut Creek benefits from pleasant year-round weather, with daytime highs that average 73 degrees. The temperate climate means that residents can frequently take advantage of the area’s outdoor attractions, including nearby Mount Diablo State Park and Briones Regional Park. Walnut Creek is also home to more than a dozen city and neighborhood parks, which offer amenities such as sports fields, playgrounds, and dog off-leash areas.

In terms of shopping and dining options, Walnut Creek strikes a balance between a small town and a large city. North Main Street, downtown’s primary thoroughfare, is where residents will find a variety of locally owned businesses and restaurants. On the other hand, those who need access to department stores won’t need to travel to San Francisco, as Walnut Creek’s outdoor Broadway Plaza mall has chains such as Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom.

At the end of June, the median sales price for single-family homes in Walnut Creek was $805,000, according to MLS data. That figure represents a 12 percent increase from a year ago and only the second time in two years that prices have cracked the $800,000 mark. However, homes in Walnut Creek are still slightly more affordable than those in Contra Costa County overall, where the median sales price was $834,000 in June.

In terms of inventory, Walnut Creek is an exceptionally tight market. June’s months’ supply of inventory was just 1.1 – 15 percent lower than the current Contra Costa average.
  • BART
  • Warm Weather
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 5/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5

"Central and Convenient"

Sometimes overshadowed by its older sibling to the north, centrally located Lower Pacific Heights has its own unique charms. Easy access to the city’s urban core, an eclectic mix of restaurants and shops, and classic San Francisco architecture are just some of the reasons that home prices in the neighborhood are on the rise.

Bordered by California Street to the north and Geary Boulevard to the south, Lower Pacific Heights offers its residents an easily walkable commute to the Financial District and many downtown office buildings. Buses — including the 1-California, 3-Jackson, and 38-Geary lines — run often and bisect the neighborhood’s western and eastern boundaries of Presidio Avenue and Gough Street respectively. Drivers can access Highway 101 and Interstate 80 less than two miles directly to the south.

For a relatively small neighborhood, Lower Pacific Heights offers a surprisingly diverse array of dining, entertainment, and shopping options within just a few blocks walk.

The tiny enclave of Japantown packs in more than 50 restaurants and sushi bars, ranging from high-end eateries, such as Kappa, to establishments where $10 (tip included) will cover lunch. If you’re in the mood for post-dining entertainment, you can find it a few blocks away at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema, one of just six movie theaters in the country affiliated with the film festival of the same name.

Fillmore Street, considered the neighborhood’s main drag, is home to two restaurants on the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Bay Area restaurants list: SPQR and State Bird Provisions. Music aficionados will appreciate close proximity to concert venues The Fillmore and Boom Boom Room, while shoppers will enjoy browsing Fillmore’s many trendy boutiques.

Though technically located a few blocks north of the neighborhood’s proper boundaries, Lafayette and Alta Plaza parks stand out as nearby urban sanctuaries where visitors frequently can soak up the sun. Both feature tennis courts and playgrounds, and the sunset views of San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz Island are more than a bonus.

The architectural style of Lower Pacific Heights properties ranges from stately Victorians built in the early 1900s to more recently constructed multi-family units. Historic Cottage Row is home to a block-long stretch of late nineteenth-century houses situated along a pedestrian promenade and adjoining a miniature park.

Median single-family home prices in the neighborhood topped $2.6 million in May 2013, a 78 percent hike from a year ago. Lower Pacific Heights homes for sale are also in high demand; since the beginning of the year, 71 percent of single-family homes have sold or are under contract.
  • great shopping
  • great restaurants
  • Expensive

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