Value for money and Quality of Life. :-)
Having lived in the Bay area for about 4 years now it has always annoyed me that in order to own a semi decent hovel in the San Jose / Santa Clara / Silicon Valley area, you either have to be a millionaire, or have a really high salary (I'm talking $120,000+ a year). Now, there are many I know who do have salaries like this and many are my colleagues. But for the vast majority, owning a home in the Bay area / Silicon Valley area has been close to impossible for the last 4 years.
Now granted, many of my friends and colleagues bought houses in the internet/tech boom bubble time (1997-2001) and a few even managed to buy homes in the couple years after that. In 2003-2004 the market skyrocketed and landed them over $100,000+ in equity in the short span of a year or less. The current price of a decent single story 3/4 bedroom, 2 garage , 1500 +/- sq. foot home in the santa clara area is over $800,000. The nicer ones go for much much more.... That is the barrier to entry right there for over 90% of wannabe home owners that I know of.
Now granted, Silicon Valley is the place to be and the place to own a home, since the school districts and the shopping and nearly everything is a stones throw away. Plus all the good jobs are right here in the top tech companies and startups. But what if you fell into the "I cannot afford a nice home on my salary" category ? Are you doomed to renting a sardine can of an apartment for the rest of your days ? Or do you want to spend over $500,000 (That's half a million dollars ... gulp!) on a 1000 sq foot apartment that honestly in any other part of the country would go for 100,000 or less... Let's face it.. the apartments are crappy and small, you end up paying about $3000 a month on Mortgage (that's interest only) ... PLUS you have to endure a $200+ HOA (home owners association) fee ... which is honestly a waste of good money. (I will leave my opinions about home owners associations and their fees for another rant blog.)
So let me take a deep breath...
Why would I want to spend $3000 of my hard earned money and another $200+ on an HOA and still live in an apartment that I could honestly rent for less than half of the mortgage. The answer is "investment". I guess the house/apartment value increases much faster in the bay area than any other part.
But is that enough ?
I don't know about you, but where I grew up, we had farms and large open spaces and wind to breathe and a house that was not large, but spacious and comfortable. So I finally decided that's what I want. Fremont, Livermore, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Dublin and the surrounding areas are still more than half a million for even a good townhome. But travel 20 minutes east and you come to this lovely city called Tracy, where at the time of writing this, had a huge inventory of new/semi new homes at unbelievable prices (Mainly due to the real-estate correction and what some call the housing bubble pop in effect).
It could be considered the suburbs of the Bay area. Aah Suburbia. If you dont mind driving a little or even taking a train, you can live in pure luxury !!! Now if you work as hard as I do for your money and plan on staying in california long term... THIS is where you go !
Fact: Look at graphs available all over the net, housing prices in California never go down. They may crest and trough or slightly dip from time to time, but if you have a family and are going to make a long term committment to living life in comfort, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Tracy !
Commute be damned. I would rather live in luxury than suffer for the same price. To end this post I would like to show you two pictures that actually made up my mind for me. Now before you say that I am not comparing apples to apples, please note that the house I found in Santa Clara (Bay Area) was the cheapest one available, there were no single family houses cheaper than that at the time of writing this. In comparison the one in Tracy is median. There are cheaper ones with the same value for money.
Which would you rather live in with your family ?
Click image for expanded view
Fact: In California you cannot lose money in real estate long term.
Think about that.