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San Carlos Poll: Which is Better — The Hills or The Flats?

July 27, 2010 Living in San Carlos, Polls 19 Comments

A Tough Decision

Making the decision to move to San Carlos is usually an easy one.  With its great schools, mild weather, community vibe, and its proximity to both San Jose and San Francisco, San Carlos has become the destination of choice for many home buyers.    But once you make the decision to move to San Carlos and you spend some time driving around the town, you’ll realize that there’s another big decision you’ll have to make:  Should you live in the hills or in the flats?

Like other cities on the northern stretch of the Peninsula, the terrain in San Carlos changes dramatically as you start to head west.  While the town is mostly flat in the area between El Camino and Alameda de las Pulgas, the terrain upticks quickly as you continue west.   The change happens even more quickly in the northern Section of San Carlos known as Cordes, which is mostly hilly.  And depending what you’re looking for in a home, both regions offer something for every home-buyer:

The Hills

People who live in the hills of San Carlos often enjoy incredible views of the San Francisco Bay and/or the Pacific Coast Range to the west.   Homes in this area are generally larger and newer than the homes in the flatlands, and it’s also easier to find larger lots in the hills, although that doesn’t guarantee that all of the land is suitable for building.     Residents of the hilly areas also enjoy relatively quick commute access to Interstate 280.

Downsides?   The views can come at a price of convenience.  With the exception of parts of Cordes, getting to downtown San Carlos for shopping or dining requires a trip up and down the hill in the car.  And if 280 isn’t your commute route of choice, getting to 101 in the morning through San Carlos can be an exercise in patience (especially if you’re going north on 101.)

The Flats

Folks who choose the flatlands of San Carlos enjoy the “walkability” of their neighborhood and the proximity to downtown San Carlos for shopping and dining.  If having a flat yard is a high priority for a home-buyer, you’ll likely have more choices east of the Alameda (not to say that there aren’t flat lots up in the hills — there definitely are.)

Downsides?  Since San Carlos was developed from the El Camino westward, homes in the flats tend to be a bit older (as in 1930′s and 40′s) and lots size tend to be smaller than their compatriots in the hills.   Some streets close to El Camino are downright cozy!

So What’s Your Pick?

Audience participation time… For those of you who already live in San Carlos, here’s an opportunity to help home buyers that are new to San Carlos.   Why do you like living in the hills of San Carlos?   Or… what makes the flats perfect for you and your family?   What benefits or downsides did I miss in the description above?

Let’s hear what you have to say about the neighborhood that you call home!    Brag about your home in the comments section, and be sure to vote in this poll:

In Which Part of San Carlos Do You Prefer to Live?

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San Carlos Poll: Which is Better -- The Hills or The Flats?, 3.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

Currently there are "19 comments" on this Article:

  1. Anonymous says:

    Have owned homes in both areas – White Oaks and then the hills. Now live right in between. My husband and I both love the hills. Major noticeable benefit: less traffic.

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  2. Melanie Yunk says:

    Hi Chuck,

    Great post! When we moved to San Carlos 16 years ago, the choice was clearly “the hills” because we craved the view. We lived in the hills for many years, and have now come down the hill. Well, we’re still west of Alameda, but without a view. There are pros and cons to being up the hill:

    Pros:

    - The amazing views.
    - Incredible wildlife.
    - Peace and quiet.
    - Low traffic.
    - Bigger lots; more privacy
    - Close to town with a country feeling.
    - Great access to 280.

    Cons:

    - If you want to walk to town, you’ve got to be up for a hike back up the hill!
    - The deer eat everything! We call going to the nursery, “going to buy deer food”.
    - Narrow roads – not a very safe place for children in many hilly neighborhoods.
    - Tough to find a flat lot for a backyard. Our home had large flat decks that made up for the steep hill – no problem.
    - Windy – very windy depending upon the year.

    For us the views were worth all the cons.

    Thanks for your wonderful blog, Chuck!

    Melanie

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    • Theo says:

      Still selling bbq sauce Melanie?

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      • Melanie Yunk says:

        Hello Theo,

        Yes, I’m still selling Big Acres Gourmet Sauces and Rubs – bbq sauce – and mango sauce – and mole – and peanut – and more! You’ll find it a Bianchini’s and Chef Shop.

        Melanie

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  3. Michael says:

    When we were shopping for a starter home in 2000, we chose San Mateo’s “the Lanes” over White Oaks simply because of lot sizes and wider streets. When we decidedd to trade-up, we chose the San Carlos Hills (just a couple streets above from San Carlos Ave).
    Melanie, I would put the “hike” in the pro column, just for the fact that I am in infinitely better shape since we moved here 7 years ago. The dogs love the bigger lot and we are in the process of terracing our yard so we can enjoy the views even more.

    Yes, White Oaks can be charming, but the traffic is really a huge minus in my book along with the small lots and lack of privacy (ie most homes are on top of each other and some even more after the owners fill every last available inch of their lots with taller, out-of-scale homes.

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    • Melanie Yunk says:

      Hi Michael,

      You’re right about the hike – it can also be a pro for living in the hills! We hike in our neighborhood all the time – for exercise. However, if you want to shop downtown and haul stuff home, the hills are not convenient. It’s quite a workout to get back up the hill, so if you’re not in the mood, then driving happens!

      Melanie

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  4. Kristin says:

    We were very lucky to live in a wonderful neighborhood , one I call “lower devonshire” (near the corner of Alameda, San Carlos Ave, and Carmelita.) We live on a lower hill and have a wonderful canyon view, though not the amazing view of the bay we would have further up on the hill. It feels like I live in the woods, very relaxing. The wonderful thing is that we are also only fairly level mile from the Cal train stop! On the weekends, we walk to Laurel and often to the library. For two years our babysitter commuted to our home via Cal train and walked to our house. Many of the commuters on our street walk to the train station every day. If you look, there really is a compromise between the hills and the flats in San Carlos.

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  5. Hill-dweller says:

    Admittedly I haven’t lived in the flat area so I’m not making a comparison, but I love living in the hills for the same reasons cited by Melanie. Being in a home surrounded by openness, I couldn’t imagine giving that up for one closed in by neighboring houses and yards. I do miss the ability to run more errands on foot but that’s my only complaint.

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  6. Jason says:

    Both areas are overpriced and will continue to fall until they reach long term, sustainable fundamentals. Many San Carlos residents are stretched to make their house payments; unfortunately they are debt-owners, not homeowners.

    Chuck – your Twitter says 2073 Eaton sold in 9 days….uhm, that place was listed back in June! This is why realtors continue to have more and more sketchy reputations – delisting a place and relisting it to “reset” the “number of days it has been for sale” is complete fraud….you know that in your heart of hearts, right?

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    • Wow.. somebody is a bit grumpy today.

      Jason, I’m not qualified to comment on whether “Many San Carlos residents are stretched to make their house payments” any more than you are qualified to make that statement in the first place…unless you have access to information that nobody else does.

      Regarding 2073 Eaton — by definition, “Days on Market” is the time between a) the day the home is listed on the market, and b) the day an offer is accepted. So in the case of 2073 Eaton, you are correct- it listed on 6/14/2010 and then went pending 6/22/2010 = 9 days later. While the home transaction is in escrow, it’s not considered “on the market” for obvious reasons, hence the DOM clock does not run. That’s simply the industry standard that everyone adheres to.

      When an agent cancels and re-lists a property, the DOM clock DOES NOT RESET to zero. It keeps counting up. By MLS rules, the property must be off the market for a minimum of 30 days before the DOM clock can reset to zero. After being off the market for 30 or more days, it’s generally acceptable to call it a new listing when it comes back on.

      So there was no “re-listing” or any “sketchy” behavior in this transaction, Jason. I’d respectfully recommend you do your homework a little more thoroughly before you level absurd accusations on this site.

      Thanks…

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  7. scott says:

    Way to tell that chump to go to the hills Chuck.

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    • Instead of the flats?

      It’s unfortunate it came to that, because it’s actually a legitimate point — the whole “days on the market” topic is quite often misunderstood by consumers (and Realtors alike.) It’s just that there’s a right way and a wrong way to ask a question.

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  8. transient says:

    But this house on 208 Crestview delisted and relisted the next day and managed to reset the DOM clock to 1. How did that happen? 333 Clifton did the same thing.

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    • Thanks for your email. You’re absolutely right, both listings were canceled and then relisted. I think the 3rd party websites like Trulia and Redfin must re-set their counters when this happens. But on the Multiple Listing Service, 208 Crestview shows a DOM of 38 days (it was canceled at day 33), and 333 Clifton shows a DOM of 31 days (canceled at 25). One thing I did notice was that the public MLS site does not show the DOM figures at all, which I think is wrong. That information should be readily accessible to the public.

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      • transient says:

        Thanks for the insight, Chuck. I didn’t realize the MLS made Redfin play by different rules. Of course, just a cursory investigation will show prior listings but not the listing prices. I guess the MLS feels it has a right to control the information for the supposed benefit of the agents who subscribe to the service.

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        • I don’t think the MLS makes Redfin (or others) play by a different set of rules. I think it’s simply a case of how these sites handle the info. When a new MLS# is assigned to the same property, the software probably picks it up as a new listing. The MLS somehow has figured out a way to keep proper track of days-on-market with their website. They really need to make this same information available to other sites (who, by the way, pay for their data feed as well.) No argument here.

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  9. Jonquil says:

    In the evening, after a long day, we sit at the kitchen table of our 1960s ranch (nothing special) in the foothills and watch the sun setting out over San Francisco Bay and the world is a great place. Our kids grew up watching the Fourth of July fireworks by walking out on the back porch with us. Most important of all, though, is the climate drop; those few degrees of lower temperatures up in the hills during a heat wave make life a little more tolerable.

    And no, our kids almost never walked to school because it was uphill all the way in the morning. I kind of hate riding my bike downtown because those last three uphill blocks coming home are brutal. There are tradeoffs. But every evening at supper I look out over the Bay, and my life is very, very good.

    One thing you didn’t mention was the extra earthquake risk of a “downhill house”; I need to get an earthquake contractor in and look at ours. Has anybody used this guy? http://www.bayarearetrofit.com/Hillside1/Hillside2/hillside2.html

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  10. Abby says:

    Interesting comments. I am sort of surprised more people like the hills. I think it depends on the house. Although the lots tend to be bigger in the hills, many of the lots have unusable space (too hilly to be of any real use).

    The wind totally turns me off to owning a home in the San Carlos Hills….much too cold and windy. But again, if your house is in a protected corner, than it might not be too bad.

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