larger post-World War II tract homes, mid-range to top end
Look here if you want upscale suburbia in a rolling hills setting.
Boundaries: Sand Hill, Highway 280, Atherton, Altschul (approximate). Map boundaries are approximate due to my limitations as a map maker. Neighborhood boundaries may be subjective. Boundaries and other information on this Web site should be verified before being relied upon.
Overview: Built on the former Sharon estate, the last large area of Menlo Park to be developed.
Housing stock: A great mix of quality ranchers, condos and apartments. Some are next to a golf course or have views. But watch for foundation problems—enough houses have shifted over the years for this area to get a reputation for unstable soils. Since this is such a great townhouse market, with lots of activity, I'll go into detail about that as well.
For clarity I've divided Sharon Heights into two sections, "Lower" and "Upper".
"Lower" Sharon Heights extends from Sand Hill to a block or so past the Monte Rosa-Avy line. It also includes La Loma, where you'll find the sole remaining pre-WWII home in the tract. Lower Sharon Heights was the first area to be developed, from 1959 through the early '60s. Single-family homes are well-built ranchers, with least three or four bedrooms and two-plus baths. Size is generally in the low 2000 sq.ft. range but can be just under 2000 to almost 3000 feet.
This area also has an early experiment in the PUD idea: small two- and three-bedroom two-bath homes, much like detached townhomes, on the block between Eastridge and Blueridge. Each pair of houses shares the same 10,000 sq.ft. lot, one house facing Eastridge, the other Blueridge, both with small back yards. They’re well-built, offer the huge benefit of no common walls and have more privacy than a townhouse. Lots of neighborhood for the buck, but they come up infrequently.
Speaking of common walls, Lower Sharon has plenty of condos and townhouses. Sharon Oaks was built from the mid-'60s to 1974 and features a variety of floor plans, most of them over 2000 sq.ft. Sharon Oaks' low density and extensive landscaping give it a gracious, welcoming appearance so unlike the hotel ambience of many newer condo developments. Most units have two stories with at least three bedrooms and two baths. However, one of the key attractions of this development is its single-level two-bedroom-plus-den/two-bath townhouses. Most of these are "atrium models" of about 1700 sq.ft. Spacious single-level townhomes are extremely rare on the mid-Peninsula, especially with back yard and attached two-car garage, and the Sharon Oaks version is much sought after.
Close to the shopping center are three relatively large and affordable condo developments, Lincoln Green, Sharon Ridge and Sharon Glen. All date from the '60s and all are apartment conversions. Consequently many units lack inside laundry but it's sometimes possible to add this feature; rules can change so check with the homeowners association. All have laundry rooms. Sharon Ridge is solely condos; Lincoln Green mostly condos with a handful of townhouses.
Sharon Glen has a number of 3-bedroom/2.5-bath townhouses as well as 2- and 3-bedroom condos. All were nicely refurbished when converted in the early '90s. Garages are detached but units directly above them can expand into the garage (but verify this with the homeowners association). This expansion also incorporates a spacious storage area behind the two-car garage.
All three developments have the mature landscaping characteristic of older developments and are quite pleasant. Lincoln Green has elevators in some buildings.
There's a cluster of small single-level townhomes along Sharon Road and lower Eastridge called Sharon Court. These have two and three bedrooms, two baths, attached two-car garage, and (usually) small back yards.
Finally, there are five large apartment buildings in this area.
"Upper" Sharon Heights was developed from the mid-'60s to about 1974. Homes usually look similar to earlier construction but are a bit larger on average, usually at least 2700 sq.ft. and often much larger. Some have views.
This area also has desirable townhouses including 1000 Sharon, a top-end development with spacious condos and townhomes. How spacious? Townhomes range from 2500 to 4000 sq.ft., and from one to three stories. They're very private, unusual for a townhouse, and in fact they're nicer than most houses. A few units are free-standing. The condos are also very large, from 2800-3000 sq.ft., and some have excellent views. Very expensive.
At the top of Sharon Park Drive, past a gate and next to the golf course is a somewhat similar development, 1200 Sharon Park, a mix of spacious condos and townhouses, although both are smaller than 1000 Sharon. Townhomes can be found in both 2- and 3-bedroom/2.5-bath floor plans, between 1880 and almost 2500 sq.ft. Condos are 2-bedroom (with or without den) or 3-bedroom units of 1800 to 2200 sq.ft.. Most have golf course views.
Also past the gate and on the golf course is a relatively affordable condo building, Country Club, more commonly called 1100 Sharon. Apartment conversions built in the '60s, they're similar to Sharon Ridge but with elevators. Units are fairly large 2/2s and 3/2s. Features include an on-site manger, pool and two laundry rooms (although some units have inside laundry). Some have fine golf course views. 1100 Sharon has two very nice 2400 sq.ft. penthouses.
Further toward 280 (and sometimes very close to 280) is Sand Hill Circle. Built in the mid-'70s, this is an attractive, low-traffic development on the golf course. Unfortunately about half the townhomes can hear 280 and some can even see it. However, demand remains high for these spacious split-level homes, especially for those that have a golf course view and/or are sheltered from 280. Most are three bedrooms with two or 2.5 baths and are between 2000-2200 sq.ft. Some 3-bedrooms are below 2000 sq.ft. and there are a few two-bedroom/two-bath models in the mid-teens.
The newest townhomes in Sharon Heights are found at the end of Valparaiso, Sharon Hills. Built in the late '80s, these are spacious single-level or split-level units. They're not only newer than Sand Hill or Sharon Oaks but also a bit larger. 3-bedroom/2.5-baths are in the mid-to-upper 2000s, 2 bedroom/2.5 baths around 2100 sq.ft. Some have spectacular Bay views. The only Menlo Park condominium association I know of with tennis courts.
Affordability: (Although this section is based on 2002 data, the relative rankings of the mid-Peninsula's midrange and top-end neighborhoods, all of them around for at least fifty years, haven't changed significantly since then. In fact, 2002, a seller's market the first half of the year, a buyer's market the second, and prior to the loose underwriting that pumped up values at the low end, may be the most representative of whatever a normal market looks like in this area.)
Sharon Heights single-family homes are quite expensive. In 2002 these homes sold in the 74th through 95th percentiles (including newer homes) compared to other Menlo Park homes. 80% of those sales clustered in the 83rd through 95th percentiles. Of the homes that sold in the top 10% of Menlo Park’s price range, 16% of those homes were in Sharon Heights. Approximately 80% of mid-Peninsula neighborhoods are less expensive.
Oddly enough, newer homes don’t make up the top of the price range. Older homes clustered in the 86th through 95th percentiles.
Small homes on small lots on Eastridge and Blueridge sold in the 49th through 58th percentiles.
Townhomes and condos range from relatively affordable to very expensive.
The affordability factor for single-family homes is 10.3 to 12.1.
Lot sizes: Quarter acre minimum with many one-third and even half acres. They’re not always entirely useable because of hilly terrain. Again, Sharon Heights has developed a reputation for unstable soils but this may vary lot-by-lot.
This information is based on district and other sources but may be obsolete by the time you read this. Verify district boundaries and school availability with district offices.
Amenities: Sharon Park, Sharon Park Drive (lake and fountain, lanai, walking paths, benches, shaded picnic areas, open play field, natural woods, tot-lot playground). Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club, Sand Hill Circle (private).
Shopping: Sharon Shopping Center has a Safeway, pharmacy, bank, pastry shop, coffee shop, deli, liquor store, gas station and a few other shops.
Neighborhoods with similar ambience: Quite a few have Sharon Height’s natural yet upscale setting, especially if you’re feeling generous. The obvious equivalents are Ladera and Stanford Hills, but those willing to travel north can find something fairly similar in Redwood City’s Farm Hill Estates, especially the newer, more expensive homes south of Farm Hill; the San Carlos hills along upper Brittan, Crestview and Club; Belmont’s Hallmark area; San Mateo’s Baywood Park; Burlingame’s Mills Estate and parts of the Burlingame Hills; and even most of Millbrae’s Highlands. Heading south check out Los Altos’ Highlands and the Cupertino foothills. Most of these “Sharon Heights substitutes” compare fairly well with lower, older Sharon Heights but the expensive custom homes of upper Sharon Heights won’t necessarily be duplicated.
Neighborhoods with similar prices (5% +/-): Like other desirable areas, somewhat difficult to pigeonhole. Some Sharon Heights homes are older, smaller and original while others are newer, larger and perhaps extensively remodeled. Some have a view, most don’t. A handful have foundation problems so severe they’re worthless except as land value; the vast majority don’t. The smaller, older homes of lower Sharon Heights sell for perhaps a 10-15% discount to the newer, larger homes up the hill. Broadly speaking, comparably priced areas include Central Menlo, Felton Gables, Ladera, the best Palo Alto neighborhoods such as Community Center, Crescent Park and Southgate, and much of Los Altos. You could also get something newer in Cupertino's Monta Vista.
There’s some debate as to whether Sharon Heights has taken a back seat to Central Menlo. While it may not be quite that simple, there's some evidence that since 1998 the flatlands have pulled away. What’s happened? Part of the difference may lie in the statistics themselves. Central Menlo’s average sales price gets pushed up because it has more ranchers in the 3000 sq.ft.-plus range and more new or newer construction. But this by itself suggests that homeowners are voting with their pocketbooks for Central Menlo. And even if you limit the sample to old ranchers of comparable size, Central Menlo still holds a significant edge. In fact, Central Menlo prices skyrocketed in 2005 while Sharon Heights prices barely budged. Why the shift? Perhaps at one point Sharon Heights had the advantage because its homes were a good ten or even twenty years newer than Central Menlo’s. Sharon Heights was the new “exurbia”, a natural yet upscale suburbia that had great market appeal at the time. But four things may have happened. First, Sharon Height’s ‘60s and ‘70s homes lost their newness; now they’re functionally obsolete and need updating, just like Central Menlo’s ‘50s ranchers. Second, the trend seems to be away from escaping the flatlands to embracing its convenience. Third, Sharon Heights gained a reputation for unstable soils, and while there's some truth to that, it's on a lot-by-lot basis; a soils inspection should be part of any Sharon Heights buyer's due diligence. And fourth, Sharon Heights lots are large but not always completely usable, while Central Menlo lots are.
But I think the point isn’t that Sharon Heights is losing its appeal but rather that Central Menlo may now have more appeal to the buyer at the upper end of the midrange who wants a sizeable home in move-in condition and can afford one. This could also have an effect on the lower end of the Central Menlo range, boosting prices there too as people pay a premium for the potential to own that lifestyle.
See an important qualification regarding price comparisons.
Interested in buying a home in Sharon Heights or in a similar area? Please contact me at email@example.com.