Introduction to Menlo Park

One of the mid-Peninsula’s prestige addresses, Menlo Park offers a wide range of neighborhoods and ambiences.

Map of Menlo Park (except a portion of east Menlo Park) and environs, including unincorporated areas with Menlo Park address. Map boundaries are approximate due to my limitations as a map maker and Google Maps’ quirks. See index of Menlo Park neighborhoods below for neighborhood maps. Boundaries and other information on this site should be verified before being relied upon.

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pros and cons

   pros

  •   One of the more consistently attractive cities on the mid-Peninsula.
  •   Superb weather.
  •   Of the three elementary school districts within its boundaries, two have excellent test scores.
  •   Downtown is attractive and upscale but has a relaxed feel.
  •   Wide range of affordability, from entry-level Belle Haven to numerous upscale neighborhoods.
  •   While post-war ranchers predominate, there’s still a good variety of neighborhood types and architectural styles.
  •   Upscale areas have attracted a fair amount of new construction, and older homes have often been extensively remodeled and expanded.
  •   Live in the hills or on the flatlands.
  •   One of the better townhouse and condo markets, especially in the hills, with a good supply of upscale developments.
  •   Excellent recreation programs.
  •   Good network of parks.
  •   Has benefited culturally, intellectually and financially from its location next to a major university.

  cons

  •   Like Palo Alto, Menlo Park is not a “bang for the buck” town, unless you value the intangibles that come from living there.  But there’s no doubt that your money gets you less house and neighborhood than in most other cities.  See Neighboring Cities for more affordable alternatives.
  •   Not a large selection of pre-war homes, and what there is is often modest.
  •   Compared to most nearby cities, Menlo Park doesn’t have a great selection of affordable condos.
  •   During rush hour, getting across the city or along El Camino can be difficult.  Willow and Sand Hill are bumper-to-bumper.

Interested in buying a home in Menlo Park?  Please contact me at jfyten@cbnorcal.com

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             neighborhoods

Click on each of these Menlo Park neighborhoods for an in-depth look.

            Allied Arts

            Alpine

          Bay Road

            Belle Haven

            Central Menlo Park

            County

            Downtown

            Felton Gables

            Ladera

            Linfield Oaks

            Menlo Oaks

            North Fair Oaks

            Sharon Heights

            Stanford Hills

            The Willows

            Vintage Oaks

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                    price performance

Part 1:  Here’s how Menlo Park’s major sub-markets have performed since 1994 (or 2000).  Top-end Menlo Park consists of Allied Arts, Central Menlo Park, Downtown, Felton Gables, Menlo Oaks, Sharon Heights, Stanford Hills and Vintage Oaks.  Entry-level Menlo Park is everything else west of 101, generally the tract neighborhoods built after World War II:  Alpine, Bay Road, County, Linfield Oaks and The Willows.  Menlo Park CID (Common Interest Development) includes all condos and townhouses, regardless of area.  I’ve combined Belle Haven with East Palo Alto, since the Belle Haven market has performed more like East Palo Alto (and much of the rest of California) than west Menlo Park.  This graph is based on data from the Multiple Listing Service, corrected to eliminate anomalies at both ends of the price range that skew average sales price.  The data has also been adjusted to compensate for the often substantial differences in average property size from year to year that can also skew the average.  In effect, we’re tracking the same townhome, entry-level neighborhood SFR and top-end neighborhood SFR twenty-two (SFR) or fifteen (townhome) years of boom and bust.  The base year, 1994, was the last year of the post-1989 bust (note that there is no 1994 data for CID).  2000 was the dot-com peak, Q4 2001 the bottom of the dot-bust.  2005 is often called the recent market’s peak although, like other mid-Peninsula middle-class neighborhoods, the Menlo Park market west of 101 peaked in early 2008 and began to recover from the downturn quickly.  The record of the Belle Haven (and East Palo Alto) neighborhoods is much more similar to that of other California markets, with a steep downturn and very gradual recovery.  I’ve separated 2016 prices by first and second half.  2017 prices are as of the first half.

 

Part 2:  The charts below are easier to understand than they look, and they have great information. Based on the same data as above, all you really need to know is that “peak” means “peak”, “trough” means “bottom of the market for this city’s SFRs and condos, whenever that was”, and that the more negative the number in the last column, the more volatile this city’s home prices have been during the period covered.  I recommend that you scan the chart now, then come back for the more detailed explanations below if you need them.

The charts are formatted in six (Menlo Park CID) or eight (Menlo Park SFR) columns covering five (CID) or seven (SFR) time periods to illustrate Menlo Park home price appreciation in percent since 1994 (SFR) and 2000 (CID), and the size of its recent real estate peaks and troughs.  In each case, Menlo Park home appreciation and depreciation is compared to the average of all local submarkets covered by this site.  The last column in each chart is a non-statistician’s attempt to quantity volatility by combining home price depreciation over the two most recent downturns and comparing it to the area average.  Here are detailed explanations of the six (or eight) columns in each chart:

  1. 1994-2013:  (SFR only) Menlo Park home price appreciation from the beginning of the dotcom boom to present, compared to the average of all local submarkets described on this site.
  2. 2000-2013:  Menlo Park home price appreciation from the peak of the dotcom boom to present.  I separate this time period from 1994-2013 because the data I have for some local submarkets goes back only to 2000.
  3.  1994-2000:  (SFR only) Menlo Park home price appreciation during the first boom with which I had first-hand experience, the dotcom boom, which began as a modest recovery in the mid-1990s, gained considerable momentum in the late 1990s and spiked from late 1999 through the end of 2000, with a sharp but temporary downturn in early 2000.
  4. dotcom peak to dotbust:  Menlo Park home price depreciation from the peak of the dotcom boom, 2000, to the bottom of its collapse Q4 2001.  Note that not every local submarket lost value then.  The handful of local submarkets driven not by stock market wealth but by wages and interest rates (like much of California) actually gained value during this period (see Belle Haven, below).
  5.  dotbust to previous peak:  Menlo Park home price appreciation from 2002 to when the various Menlo Park markets peaked:  early 2008 (top-end and CID); 2007 (entry-level); and 2006 (Belle Haven).  To facilitate comparison between local submarkets, I say “previous peak” rather than give a date, since our submarkets peaked anywhere from 2005 to early 2008, depending on strength of demand (“brand”).
  6.  Previous peak to trough:  Home price depreciation in the various Menlo Park markets from when they peaked (see 5, above) to when they bottomed:  late 2008 (top-end and entry-level); and 2011 (CID and Belle Haven).  To facilitate comparison, I say “trough” rather than give a date, since local submarkets bottomed anywhere from late 2008 to 2011, depending on strength of demand (“brand”).
  7. Previous trough through 2013:  Menlo Park home price appreciation from either late 2008 (top-end and entry-level) or 2011 (CID and Belle Haven) through 2013.
  8. Total depreciation 1994-2013:  Total Menlo Park home price depreciation during the two downturns included in the data, compared to the average for all local submarkets covered by this site. Total depreciation greater than average suggests greater-than-average price volatility–in other words, a bumpy ride. It’s surprising, given west-of-101 Menlo Park’s reputation as a typically solid mid-Peninsula investment, to see that, at least by this measure, it has greater-than-average volatility, but its greater-than-average appreciation may offset this for many. Incredibly, Belle Haven and neighboring East Palo Alto, so badly hammered during the last downturn, is only slightly more volatile than top-end Menlo Park, which got through the subprime meltdown with virtually no bank-owned or short sales. Note that during the dotcom boom top-end Menlo Park outpaced entry-level, which suggests where dotcom money went (see also Atherton), but that entry-level outgained top-end during the mid-2000s when interest rates were more a factor.

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copyright © John Fyten 2004-2014

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