Is Belmont Gaining Favor over San Carlos?

December 8, 2011

Preferences Shift for Some.

When I work with buyers who are looking in this general area to establish their roots, they're usually open to searching in either San Carlos or Belmont.   This makes sense, since the cities have quite a bit in common — good schools,  great location, decent weather — all of that stuff that makes the mid-Peninsula a great place to live.   I have placed buyers into Belmont who were originally focused solely on San Carlos, but they were able to find a house that better suited their needs (and budget) in Belmont.

You may recall that back in 2009, I published this article and then a follow up article about whether you indeed get more house for your money in Belmont.  The conclusion of that study showed that the same sized house is about 7-10% cheaper in Belmont than it is in San Carlos — a benchmark that likely still stands today.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

But lately I have seen a trend of buyers who are focusing their search solely on Belmont.  Not San Carlos or Belmont — just Belmont.    The reason they're excluding San Carlos?  Oddly, it's the very same thing that make it attractive in the first place; great schools and neighborhoods.  How's that?

There's a definite perception with some buyers outside of the immediate area that getting into San Carlos neighborhoods and schools has become too competitive for their liking.   Whether they are accurate or not, the stories of multiple offers and escalating prices have caused some buyers to steer clear of San Carlos.   And even if they're willing to join the fracas, there's a perception from what they read in the press that San Carlos' great schools are bursting at the seams.  So even if they find the perfect home that's a short walk to their preferred school, there's a fear that they won't even get their kids into that school.

There's the High School Thing, Too.

The boundary of the Sequoia Union High School District is now playing a much bigger big role in home buying decision for many.  Despite the fact that many San Carlos kids currently attend Carlmont High School in Belmont, the reality is that most of San Carlos is zoned for Sequoia High School.   And in recent years, enrollment constraints at Carlmont have prevented many San Carlos families from sending their kids to Carlmont.  Such inter-district transfers were almost a given just 5 years ago.

Leaving the argument over the merits of both schools aside for now, many families who simply favor Carlmont High School over Sequoia are choosing Belmont over San Carlos to maximize the probability that their child will be able attend Carlmont.

The Reality?

While some of these concerns have some basis of truth, the reality is that Belmont is not immune from the same things that make San Carlos so popular.   Homes in some of Belmont's most desirable neighborhoods are also seeing multiple offers and escalating prices (just look at the home sales in the Hallmark neighborhood).   And from what I have heard, Belmont's outstanding schools are also feeling the crunch of a swelling enrollment and limited physical space.

Just like you would do with any community that you're considering, do your homework before you decide that Belmont (or any community) is right for you.    Call the school district and find out what the enrollment scenario is across the district.  And work with someone who knows the housing market intimately in both San Carlos and Belmont.   You may be surprised at how your perceptions may change.

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  1. Carlmont parent on December 8, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Like White Oaks Elementary, parents are seeing Carlmont High School’s reputation soar, despite the state education budget crisis. Last year, there were 18 Ivy League admissions. This year, 4 early decisions to Harvard and 3 to Stanford. For a while, people were smitten with sending their kids to private schools like St. Francis in Mt. View. St. Francis now gives admissions preference to athletics over academics. So all these smart kids are now going to Carlmont. That’s why a lot of Belmont parents are tickled to have Carlmont as their local high school.

  2. Arn Cenedella on December 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Chuck, you are spot on. Just had some clients buy a house in Belmont after a year and about 6 offers trying to buy something in San Carlos. The market will adjust and even out the price differential somewhat in the future. More buyers for Belmont means prices in Belmont go up until they start to approaches San Carlos.

  3. Belmont Mom on December 22, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Personally, I think both towns are great. I live in Belmont. I love the convenience of the Hallmark neighborhood. We are right off 280 & 92. There are many supermarkets: three Safeways (El Camino, Alameda and Crystal Springs) and Lunardi’s, the best produce, meat dept. and deli around. There are many excellent hiking and running trails in Belmont including the famous Crystal Springs Cross Country course. I absolutely love Belmont! I would say the public schools will be the same as San Carlos. All public schools are having a difficult time. Carlmont HIgh is a huge plus!! The HIllsdale Shopping Center is only ten minutes away. The one major drawback is we do not have a Laurel Street. San Carlos’ downtown is beautiful with so many interesting shops and restaurants. San Carlos seems great as well with Hometown Days, Farmer’s markets, nice parks etc. Personally, I don’t see the attraction of White Oaks..very small houses on small lots with very little privacy. Sorry. I don’t think you can go wrong with either town. Belmont’s city council is the laughing stock of the peninsula…which was news to me. Hopefully, that will change soon. San Carlos seems better run…

  4. Belmont Mom on December 22, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Oh, one other plug for Belmont. We have many private schools if the public schools do not work out for your family. Belmont Oaks Academy, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Notre Dame Elementary, Serendipity, Notre Dame High School and the world famous Charles Armstrong School. Charles Armstrong is amazing!! It is for children who are dyslexic learners. It is absolutely phenomenal!!!!!!! It is the only school in Northern CA for this type of learner. 1/3 of the school drives down from SF to attend the school.

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