Not just another Peninsula bedroom community, San Mateo stands out with its long history and wide spectrum of neighborhoods. San Mateo is perhaps the most traditional of mid-Peninsula cities. Downtown is one of the few in this area with an established, pre-war feel, and it’s larger than most. San Mateo’s many pre-World War II neighborhoods have a broad range of styles and prices, and often have aged gracefully. There’s plenty of post-war construction too, from inexpensive tracts to comfortable hillside ranchers, with contemporary as well as conventional architecture. You can even live on the water.
And over much of San Mateo hangs something missing from cities to the south, best described as an air of gentility. Here the mid-Peninsula takes on a different look. This is the Bay Area’s marine climate, greener, colder, windier and foggier; the softer, filtered sunlight rounds off the rough edges, flattering its subject. Or maybe it’s an old-fashioned-ness straight out of a Norman Rockwell illustration. Not every San Mateo neighborhood has “it”, but enough do to make it an appealing city.
It’s a quality shared by San Mateo’s neighbors to the north. Burlingame is known for its old-fashioned neighborhoods, quaint downtown and great schools. Millbrae has more post-war homes, set in attractive rolling hills, as well as a small pre-war neighborhood, an attractive and revitalized downtown, a large and convenient transit center, and its own highly-regarded schools.
Map of San Mateo and environs, including unincorporated areas with San Mateo address. Click “view larger map” link below map for an explanation of featured areas. Map boundaries are approximate due to my limitations as a map maker. Neighborhood boundaries may be subjective. Boundaries and other information on this site should be verified before being relied upon.
pros and cons
· A multitude of neighborhoods, with something for everyone.
· Great downtown, one of the largest and most attractive in the area. See an overview of local downtowns.
· K-8 and high schools have solid test scores, even in the affordable neighborhoods.
· Offers a beautiful, imposing top-end enclave, San Mateo Park, as well as several other strikingly attractive upper-midrange neighborhoods such as Baywood and Aragon.
· One of the few cities in this area where you can find Victorians, although not always in the best areas or in the best condition.
· Great inventory of modest yet attractive pre-war homes at affordable prices.
· Plenty of spacious, well-built post-war ranchers, and even a good selection of modern homes.
· Great place to look for contemporaries in the low and middle price ranges (including lots of Eichlers) although they’re on the fringes of the city, both geographically and stylistically. San Mateo’s core areas are architecturally conservative.
· Even the affordable post-war tracts east of 101 have a fair degree of design interest, especially if you like early contemporaries.
· Solid townhouse market, especially close to downtown.
· Also a great market for multi-family investors, with plenty of inventory.
· Redevelopment and new construction on the outskirts of downtown.
· First-time buyers program.
· Windier and foggier than to the south, although still below the fog belt.
· So traditional that there’s even a “wrong side of the tracks”. In particular, the areas close to 101 can look marginal.
· Commercial uses along the east side of downtown can intrude on nearby neighborhoods.
· East of 101, freeway traffic noise seems unusually intrusive, almost as if it’s amplified, perhaps an example of sound wall bounce.
Interested in buying a home in San Mateo? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
San Mateo has a variety of distinct neighborhoods. What follows is only an overview. Neighborhoods are listed generally from north to south.
East of 101 (affordable):
North Shoreview: Aside from a handful of Spanish and Tudor bungalows built in the ‘20s, this large area is entirely the boxy cottages typical of the 1940s. Even then these homes were for the economy-minded: 2- and 3-bedroom homes of no more than 1150 sq.ft., usually with just one bath and attached one-car garage, often with wall furnace or even the old-fashioned floor furnace instead of more efficient central heating. Lots are small, usually 5000 sq.ft. Minimalist housing to be sure, but with an appealingly traditional look. Priced about where Redwood City’s similar Friendly Acres sells, but a little nicer and with higher-testing schools, and only about 15-20% more than Menlo Park’s Belle Haven. 101 traffic noise seems to dominate this area, even well away from the freeway, perhaps due to sound wall bounce.
South Shoreview: A little newer than North Shoreview. Some of the homes are similar, but most are contemporaries on slab in the “House of the Future” style typical of the very early ‘50s. If anything, they’re even smaller than North Shoreview’s, especially the flattops. The layout is still mostly 2- and 3-bedroom/1-bath, often with wall furnace, but two-car garages begin to appear. Perhaps 5% more expensive than North Shoreview.
Parkside: Built in the mid-‘50s just after South Shoreview, these are “real houses”: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2-car garage and central heating. Not only that, they average several hundred square feet more than South Shoreview homes. Housing is a fairly even mix of contemporary and traditional ranchers, including a small neighborhood of convincing Eichler knock-offs reminiscent of his first architect-designed efforts. The local school, Parkside, has surprisingly high test scores. At least 10% more expensive than South Shoreview, but a good 15% less than most entry-level parts of Menlo Park west of 101.
Neighborhoods on or near the water: Think of them as “San Mateo’s Foster City”. While San Mateo’s older shoreline developments, Shoreview and Parkside, ignore the Bay, its newer neighborhoods embrace it. Most of the housing stock is condos, but there’s an interesting project called Mariner’s Green with attached and detached single-family homes, some on the water. It’s not especially new or upscale but you get something of the resort lifestyle, with boat docks, tennis courts, pool and clubhouse, as well as extensive greenbelts. Homes range from about 1300 sq.ft. to over 2000 sq.ft. and prices vary accordingly, with perhaps a 15-20% premium for waterfront location, but they’re not expensive by Foster City or Redwood Shores standards.
Between El Camino and 101 (affordable to midrange):
North of downtown: An extremely affordable yet often pleasant environment, with a variety of established neighborhoods. Just south of Burlingame the housing stock is mostly ‘20s bungalows, with pre-World War I Craftsmen also much in evidence. There’s also plenty of small multi-family—condos and apartments—sprinkled randomly, which means more people and traffic. Neighborhood quality is generally good if you don’t mind living next to or near an apartment building, something not always conducive to peace and quiet. East of the tracks things can get a little rugged, but even here there are plenty of nice if modest streets. Heading south and crossing Poplar, single family is gradually replaced by large condo and apartment buildings, although the few homes here are often huge and elegant, suggesting that this was once a fashionable neighborhood. There’s even a handful of small Victorians from Monte Diablo south. A handy location between two fine and greatly differing downtowns, quaint Burlingame and bustling San Mateo. 15-20% less than San Mateo’s Hayward Park (below), of the same vintage but with fewer high-density uses, and a good 10% less than the most entry-level of Menlo Park neighborhoods west of 101.
Bowie Estate: Shorthand for several tracts between Peninsula and 4th, Claremont and 101, this is a smorgasbord of pre-World War I Craftsmen, ‘20s bungalows, modest ‘40s ranchers and ‘60s apartment buildings—lots and lots of apartment buildings. Sometimes you’ll find it all on the same block, although as a rule, the south and west fringes have the oldest houses. Throw in a few churches, plenty of duplexes, an armory, the stately old San Mateo High School, a DMV, a county courthouse, a commercial district along the eastern fringe and a cluster of Queen Anne Victorian survivors and you get the idea: this is a happening place. And last but not least is incongruous Peninsular Manor, several beautiful tree-lined blocks of imposing Spanish Revival homes, apparently lifted intact from upscale Old Palo Alto and dropped in the middle of nowhere. It’s just one of the more piquant reminders that neighborhood quality is more uneven here than in any other part of San Mateo. Some streets are nice, a handful impressive, and some just marginal. You can find traces of genteel suburbia, but more often this area resembles Redwood City’s Friendly Acres or Menlo Park’s Belle Haven. Homes are almost uniformly small, lots narrow but often deep. One of the most affordable of San Mateo’s neighborhoods, east or west of 101, and a great place to find old-fashioned charm on a very tight budget, if you’re careful.
Glazenwood: San Mateo’s Southgate, remarkably similar to that very elegant Palo Alto neighborhood. Not imposing, with its small homes on small lots, but greatly enhanced by some of the most artistic bungalow architecture to be found between San Jose and San Mateo—Spanish, Colonial, even Navajo—set on narrow curving streets designed like a landscape designer’s paths. Most are gems—the exterior tile work is especially interesting. Just south of Central Park in the 900 blocks of Palm, Rosewood, Laurel and B. Sells at about a 15% premium to neighboring Hayward Park, about what the Willows’ popular North Palo Alto goes for, and of the same vintage, and about half what you’d pay to get into Southgate itself.
Hayward Park: An attractive, architecturally-interesting yet affordable enclave of mostly pre-war homes on the site of the former Hayward estate. Looks much like the typical downtown Mountain View neighborhood or, to put it in a Menlo Park context, lower Allied Arts between El Camino and University. A handful of homes date from before World War I, in the Craftsman style popular in the Bay Area then, but most are Spanish and Tudor Revivals of the 1920s. The majority are modest, often as small as 1200 sq.ft., but homes of around 2000 sq.ft. are not uncommon. There’s an old-fashioned neighborhood shopping district on South Blvd. North-south streets are busy, the area is fringed with small apartment and commercial buildings, and you’re within earshot of either the train tracks or El Camino, but all of this just keeps a rather remarkable neighborhood remarkably affordable. Priced like the most entry-level of Menlo Park neighborhoods west of 101. Between 10th and 17th, El Camino and the railroad tracks.
East San Mateo: South of Bowie Estate and somewhat similar, but a more consistent and consistently appealing neighborhood. Homes date from a narrower range, mostly the 1920s and 1930s but, like Bowie Estate, many of those near Claremont and 4th were built before World War I. East San Mateo has far fewer apartment buildings and other high-density uses, and also fewer ‘40s ranchers. Homes are still small, lots narrow but often deep, although sub-standard lots are common. Priced a good 15-20% more than Bowie Estate but still cheap, this inviting neighborhood is a great place to find pre-war architecture on a budget.
Sunnybrae: South of East San Mateo and developed not long after, this modest yet popular tract differs remarkably from its neighbor. Instead of the older area’s arrow-straight and very broad streets, Sunnybrae is laid out intricately, enhancing its intimacy. The earliest homes go back to 1939, while some of East San Mateo’s homes were being built, but have the leaner, less romantic look of the then-new rancher. Yet typical of the earliest examples, these homes retain enough old-fashioned charm to make this an appealingly nostalgic neighborhood. The split-level 2-bedroom/1-bath based on a style from the 1920s is particularly nice; this floorplan also shows up in Redwood City’s Redwood Estates east of El Camino, built at the same time. Small homes on small lots (usually 50×90 feet) keep Sunnybrae affordable, priced about 15% less than Menlo Park’s entry-level neighborhoods.
19th Avenue Park: Eichlers in San Mateo? San Mateo is a great place for Eichlers, especially if you’re priced out of Palo Alto. 19th Avenue Park’s 232 homes account for only a fraction of Joe’s work in San Mateo. You can’t beat their east-of-101 prices—you’re west of 101 but, as usual, these Eichlers offer bang for the buck. Values are low in part because this was one of Eichler’s earlier, less deluxe projects, built in 1955-56. Homes are smaller than his later Highlands development—3/2s of 1200 and 1300 sq.ft and 4/2s of 1540 sq.ft.—plus there’s no community center and no views. Lots are small, often near 5000 sq.ft. and sometimes even smaller, and you feel the closeness. But for the genuine Eichler connoisseur, it doesn’t get much cheaper than this.
Fiesta Gardens: Conventional mid-‘50s ranchers that offer the minimum most buyers look for: three bedrooms, almost always two baths, two-car garage, perimeter foundation and central heating. They’re handsome if small homes, typical of their era and market, with most in the 1200 to 1600 sq.ft. range. Somewhat isolated, surrounded by Bay Meadows, 101, 92 and the police complex, but the neighborhood is generally well-maintained. Costs about 15% more than the nearby Eichlers of 19th Avenue Park, but at least 25% less than the most comparable Willows tract.
San Mateo Village: Rising property values have energized home maintenance in every local neighborhood, more so in some than in others, and San Mateo Village seems to be one of them. Maybe it’s just me, but the Village didn’t look nearly as good in the early 1990s. It resembles North Shoreview—small one-bath homes of about 1150 sq.ft. with hip roof, wall furnace and attached one-car garage—and was built concurrently, between 1947 and 1950. The Village is an unusual example of buyer tastes in home design changing during a narrow window of time, with a handful of Tudors, obviously plans left over from the ‘30s complete with old-fashioned floor furnace, book-ended by ‘50s contemporaries. Priced at about a 15% premium to North Shoreview.
West of El Camino (mostly midrange):
Baywood Knolls: A small, quietly affluent hillside neighborhood west of Alameda and south of Crystal Springs. Dates from the early 1940s to early 1950s and while its architecture is the simplified, straightforward style typical of the era, it keeps enough traditional design cues to achieve a formal look. Old-fashioned streetlights enhance that look. Not to be confused with neighboring just-plain-Baywood, although the similar street names suggest that the Knolls’ developers would have been happy if you did. Baywood Knolls homes are usually generous in size, often over 2000 sq.ft. but lots tend to be small, mostly from 5000 to 7000 sq.ft., although a few are larger and some quite deep. The neighborhood north of Parrott seems superior and, in fact, only a small step down from more expensive Baywood itself, in price as well as ambience. Highly-regarded schools K through 12 (check availability) round out a very complete package that’s bargain-priced compared to comparable Palo Alto and Menlo Park neighborhoods. Sells for a bit more than a Menlo Park County-area rancher, and a bit less than Linfield Oaks.
Foothill Terrace: West of Alameda and north of 92, an area of large, handsome homes set in rolling hills. The earliest are comfortable early-50s ranchers, most of 1500 to 2100 sq.ft., with three bedrooms and two baths, on smallish lots. Further up the hill, building went on into the early 1970s. These newer homes are often two-stories of over 2200 sq.ft. on slightly larger lots. Some have views of the Bay. As is often the case on the mid-Peninsula, much of the newer construction has a less-than-ideal location, in this case quite close to 92. But above-average housing stock (modern homes are hard to find in San Mateo) and highly-regarded schools from K through 12 (check availability) make this something of a bang-for-the-buck neighborhood. Sells about like Baywood Knolls, above.
Homestead: The neighborhood west of El Camino between Hobart and 92, it’s mostly small 1940s ranchers on small lots, with a generous sprinkling of ‘20s and ‘30s bungalows and a handful of Craftsmen from the turn of the 20th century. Flat near El Camino, with lots of small apartment buildings, then gently sloped toward Alameda, where it’s entirely single-family. Priced about like entry-level Menlo Park west of 101, and about 30% less than the Menlo Park neighborhood it resembles, lower Allied Arts.
Beresford Manor: In some parts of San Mateo, like Baywood and Aragon, a subdivision name means bragging rights and higher property values; in others, not so much. This is one of those “not so much”. In fact, you could call the neighborhoods on both sides of the Alameda from 92 to almost Hillsdale Avenue “Beresford Park”, either because that’s their subdivision name or because they’re close to Beresford Park (the Park and Recreation Center Beresford Park, not the subdivision Beresford Park) or because they’re part of the Beresford Hillsdale Homeowners Association. Confused? The appellation “Beresford” gets a real workout here, perhaps because this area was once an unincorporated town by that name subsequently absorbed by San Mateo (the fact that it has its own small “downtown”, and that several of the numbered Avenues here once had real names, reinforces the idea). I’ve mixed in Beresford Manor with San Mateo Villa Park and Blossom Heath from north to south, extracted San Mateo Terrace (but not the San Mateo Terrace I’ll tell you about in a moment), baked for half an hour and come up with the neighborhood here I’m calling “Beresford Manor”. Why go to the trouble? Because these neighborhoods, between El Camino, Alameda, 20th and 27th, are the only ones south of 92 where you can consistently find affordable ‘20s-era bungalow neighborhoods, suggesting that this must have been the southern fringe of San Mateo (or old Beresford) before World War II. And you’re still not too far from one of the Peninsula’s best downtowns. Development was spotty here in the earliest days, and later ‘40s ranchers are scattered throughout. But it’s the tree-lined streets of modest yet elegant Spanish and Tudor Revival homes that give this area real character. A bonus is the neighborhood shopping district on 25th off El Camino. Not particularly expensive, about where entry-level Menlo Park falls.
Park Western: A continuation of what might be called Greater Beresford Park, a mix of homogeneous tracts between 27th and 31st. Homes are mostly the small, affordable ranchers typical of the building booms just before and after World War II, randomly punctuated by substantial Colonials and Cape Cods. Neighborhoods are tidy, with just enough residual design cues left over from the old days to offer plenty of charm. The “basement” style of house, with a small second story over an attached one-car garage, is something of a signature. Churches are interspersed throughout this part of San Mateo, adding to the genteel, old-fashioned ambience—this isn’t the nothing-but-tract-homes ambience common to much of suburbia. It’s generally affordable, too, in the entry-level Menlo Park range, although the handful of large stately homes seem nearly as expensive as similar homes in more prestigious San Mateo neighborhoods.
Hillsdale (“the Lanes”): One of David Bohannon’s first tracts—he also built in Menlo Park, Woodside Hills, Santa Clara and San Lorenzo, and created nearby Hillsdale Shopping Center as well as many other commercial developments—this is a favorite San Mateo neighborhood. Homes are humble by today’s standards, but handsome and a cut above the typical ‘40s rancher, as was all of Bohannon’s work. Most offer the basics: three bedrooms, two baths, two-car garage and central heating. But there’s more to this neighborhood than the simple houses. Its location next to one of the largest and earliest malls on the Peninsula means that the Lanes is convenient to shopping, but the cul-de-sac layout keeps shopper traffic from overwhelming the neighborhood. An added bonus is that each “lane” ends at one of several secluded city parks. The neighborhood has a loved look, and as proof of that, many of the homes that come on the market here have been nicely remodeled. A bit pricier than surrounding areas, but still well within the midrange of Menlo Park’s Willows. Note that this is the just the “dale” part of Hillsdale. A slightly later iteration of Hillsdale subdivision marches up the hill, up Hillsdale Avenue, making it the “hills” part of Hillsdale.
San Mateo Terrace: Like “Beresford”, San Mateo Terrace is another subdivision name that got used early and often on both sides of the Alameda. East of the Alameda it’s mostly but not entirely a charming, rather pricey pre-war subdivision on sub-standard lots; think small-scale Aragon. But here I use the name to refer to a neighborhood of small, affordable ‘40s ranchers extending west from the Alameda to Sunset, north of Hillsdale High School, with homes typical of the earliest, minimalist tract housing: small (usually 1000 to 1200 sq.ft.), often with just one bath and a one-car garage. Small lots, too, make this perhaps the most consistently affordable area west of the Alameda, comparable to Menlo Park’s lower Willows near 101 but minus the freeway noise. You might even get a view, too.
Westwood Knolls: Or San Mateo Knolls or Rolling Hills or…you get the idea: it’s hilly here. It’s not often that you find a clear-cut difference between one Peninsula suburb and the next. Often they blend seamlessly, banged out by the same builders, at the same time and in the same style. But drive north from Belmont on the Alameda and the transition to San Mateo’s “Knolls” is sharp, almost surreal and with a clear message: there will be no funkiness. The laidback, faintly bohemian charm of Belmont gives way abruptly to orderly 1940s suburbia. The rolling hills are the same but the streets, instead of following the contours, often march straight down to El Camino. Development started at the base of the hill with modest ranchers, and got bigger and more affluent as it worked its way to the top along the Alameda. Design is conventional and pre-war homes almost non-existent—the steep slopes discouraged building here until the post-World War II boom—but the topography and restrained architecture gives these established neighborhoods charm, especially toward the top. The local school, Laurel, (check with district for availability) is one of the better-testing San Mateo schools. An added bonus are two sizeable neighborhood shopping districts off El Camino at 37th and 42nd. One of San Mateo’s most affordable areas west of El Camino, with entry-level prices much like those of Menlo Park’s lower Willows near 101.
Laurelwood: Hillside living between Hillsdale and De Anza near 92, San Mateo’s version of Redwood City’s Farm Hill Estates and the older parts of Ladera, but not quite in the same ballpark as Sharon Heights. Homes are generally spacious and comfortable, but the time span of development, about ten years, left at least three sub-markets, each with its own nuances. The top end is homes from the ‘70s, often two stories and well over 2000 sq.ft., with four or five bedrooms and three-car garage. They resemble top-end housing in nearby communities such as Belmont’s Hallmark neighborhood and the newer parts of the San Carlos hills, and were often built by the same builder, Whitecliff. Lots are at least 7000 to 8000 sq.ft. and often quarter acres. Next is a slightly older but still quite prosperous neighborhood dating from the mid-‘60s. Homes are slightly smaller, with more three-bedroom floorplans, but they still average a bit over 2000 sq.ft., with two-car garage and on lots of about 6000-7000 sq.ft. Finally, there’s the earliest section, built in the early 1960s, with still smaller homes of around 2000 sq.ft. that look a bit more tract-like, and three bedrooms predominate. There’s maybe a 10-15% variation in prices between the newest and oldest neighborhoods, with older homes selling for about what a better Willows home would go for and newer homes priced in the ballpark of midrange unincorporated Menlo Park (“the County”). Note that some of the less-expensive listings you’ll see in this area are attached single-family homes, often called “duet” homes, a style that’s never really caught on here.
Baywood Park/Enchanted Hills: More hillside living, north of 92 along Los Altos and Parrott. Housing stock ranges from mid-‘50s ranchers to surprisingly contemporary two-story homes built in the late ‘70s to newer, more conservative designs. Along Parrott lots are ample, often quarter acres, but get smaller (and often steeply sloped) as you go west. In the background are unspoiled hills. Convenient to 92, and from some neighborhoods you can see and hear it, but otherwise quiet and serene. Like Menlo Park’s Ladera and Sharon Heights, there’s the sizeable (and recently renovated) Crystal Springs Shopping Center nearby, so you’re not isolated. Also has spacious townhomes. Located in the attendance areas of three of San Mateo’s most popular schools, but check availability. Prices vary according to size and age, but older homes sell for about 35% less than older Sharon Heights and what unincorporated Menlo Park goes for. The newer stuff, often with four or five bedrooms and 2.5 or 3.5 baths, is quite a bit more expensive but still perhaps 10% less than even entry-level Sharon Heights.
Highlands: Acres of Eichlers, set in rolling hills just west of San Mateo (the Highlands is unincorporated) near 92 and 280. The setting is incongruous for anyone expecting typical ‘50s suburbia, with unspoiled views of the nearby fish and game refuge. These 750 or so homes are what I call “mature Eichlers”, not the small, stripped-down early efforts but sizeable houses, often in the 1800 sq.ft. range, and with the amenities home-buyers were demanding by the late ‘50s. Lots are generously sized, usually at least 8000 sq.ft. and often a quarter-acre, and many homes are on cul-de-sacs. Eichler’s popular atrium model can be found here, and there’s even a recreation center. An out-of-the-way location when new made this project a tough sell, but access has improved greatly over the years and there’s a shopping center at the foot of the hill. The local school, Highlands (check with district for availability) is one of the better-scoring San Mateo schools. All this goodness makes the Highlands not particularly cheap by San Mateo standards, although selling at a slight discount to conventional ranchers of the same era. Eichler fans take note: the Highlands is a good 20% more affordable than its most comparable neighborhood, Greenmeadow in Palo Alto. There’s also a development of newer, conventional homes at the north end of the Highlands that sells for substantially more than the Eichlers.
San Mateo Park: Much like Palo Alto’s ritzy Crescent Park, with homes ranging from humble cottages to large estates, set in an atmosphere of casual yet unmistakable affluence. The oldest, most formal part is close to El Camino, with impressive Craftsman built around the turn of the 20th century on large lots. There’s also plenty of the Revival styles—Tudor, Spanish and Colonial—common to the ‘20s and ‘30s when most homes here were built. Further up the hill there’s a little of everything, including ranchers and bungalows, and the lots are a bit smaller, but the ambience is still superb, the blocks irregularly shaped to avoid monotony, the winding streets enhanced by islands of trees. Even the new homes are in quiet good taste. Lot sizes vary widely, with many in the quarter- to half-acre range but a number well under 10,000 sq.ft. They’re usually narrow but very deep. San Mateo Park prices vary widely as well, since like other established, top-end neighborhoods, these are anything but cookie-cutter homes. However, it’s fairly safe to say that the “low end” can be priced about like midrange Menlo Park, say a Linfield Oaks rancher or some of the better County neighborhoods. For that kind of money you’re likely to get a smallish lot but a fairly substantial house. San Mateo Park’s more mainstream offerings are also a challenge to categorize, but they sell at a substantial discount to comparable Palo Alto neighborhoods such as Old Palo Alto and Crescent Park, perhaps 33% less for a house of similar size.
Baywood: Just south of San Mateo Park and perhaps a step down, but still the sort of neighborhood that says you’ve arrived. In fact, I think Baywood is one of the most consistent and consistently appealing neighborhoods on the Peninsula. Built from about 1930 to 1951, homes are large and classic, with manicured yards set on broad, curving streets. The neighborhood has an impressive number of variations on the popular Revival styles including Spanish, Tudor, Colonial, Monterey, Moorish and Norman, and a few that defy classification (“early Wurlitzer“?), as well as plenty of prosperous-looking ranchers. Lots are slightly larger than average, usually from 6000 to 8000 sq.ft., with some quarter acres. Homes are typically close to 2000 sq.ft., often well into the 2000s and occasionally over 3000 sq.ft. Graced with a district of extremely attractive apartment buildings, many of them in the Revival styles common to pre-WWII architecture, near El Camino. Just south of Baywood’s apartment and commercial district is a different and less-upscale but still very appealing neighborhood, Parrott Park, post-WWII and more tract-like but with plenty of charm—and entirely flat, unlike Baywood. Both Parrott Park and much of Baywood are within walking distance of San Mateo’s fine downtown. The local elementary school, Baywood, is one of the most sought-after in San Mateo.
Aragon: Located between Hobart and Notre Dame, Aragon is a living catalogue of picture-perfect pre-war middle-class homes. Flaws are few and far between, with tree-lined streets and old-fashioned streetlights adding the finishing touches. Even the apartment buildings just off El Camino are handsome and well-maintained, with minimal impact on their immediate area. That’s unusual for San Mateo, and this plus Aragon’s remarkable architectural unity suggests a carefully planned neighborhood. That architecture, while appealing, was something of a throwback even when new. The area was built primarily in the late 1930s, when the typical home was evolving into the stripped-down, sober rancher (like Bohannon’s Hillsdale tract), yet Aragon’s dominant theme is the romanticism of the 1920s and early 1930s. Even Aragon’s Spanish street names are more in keeping with an earlier era that romanticized California’s Mexican heritage. Homes are spacious for the time, often over 2000 sq.ft. Lots are small, usually in the 5000 to 7000 sq.ft. range. Priced like midrange Menlo Park, with Aragon selling about like a Linfield Oaks rancher.
Here’s how San Mateo SFR (single-family residence) east of 101, between 101 and El Camino and west of El Camino, and CID (Common Interest Development, including condos and townhouses) throughout the city have performed since 1994. 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 a home from each of San Mateo’s five major markets through fifteen (CID) or twenty-two (SFR) years of boom and bust. The base year, 1994, was the last year of the post-1989 bust. 2000 was the dot-com peak, Q4 2001 the bottom of the dot-bust. 2005 is often called the previous market’s peak, although the more sought-after areas peaked in early 2008. Note that the lower the price range, the earlier the market peaked and the longer it took to recover. 2015 prices are as of May 2015.
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 (CID) or eight (SFR) columns covering five (CID) or seven (SFR) time periods to illustrate San Mateo 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, San Mateo 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 San Mateo 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:
- 1994-2013: (SFR only) San Mateo home price appreciation from the beginning of the dotcom boom to present, compared to the average of all local submarkets described on this site.
- 2000-2013: San Mateo SFR and CID 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.
- 1994-2000: (SFR only) San Mateo SFR 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.
- dotcom peak to dotbust: 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 (note San Mateo CID and the two SFR markets east of EL Camino). 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.
- dotbust to previous peak: San Mateo home price appreciation from 2002 to 2006 or 2007, depending on area and housing type, when San Mateo home prices peaked. 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”).
- Previous peak to trough: San Mateo home price depreciation from when prices peaked (see 5, above) to when they bottomed in either late 2008 (top end) or 2011. 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”).
- Previous trough through 2013: San Mateo home price appreciation from either 2009 (top end) or 2011 through 2013.
- Total depreciation 1994-2013: Total San Mateo home price depreciation by area 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. By and large, San Mateo SFR has had average volatility, at least by this measure, while, remarkably, CID has had less–and relatively strong performance during the dotbust crash balanced a severe downturn during the subprime meltdown.
copyright © John Fyten 2004-2014