Altered Criteria

Path across labyrinth

One thing that always happens in hot markets is a buyers criteria gets reduced. In a slow market a buyer can afford to be picky and bad locations, plenty of needed improvements or schools that don’t have API scores over 900 can eliminate a property from someone’s choices. Not now though! I mention the API score thing because, in my experience, the better the school the more desirable the home. In fact, I’d say that the quality of the schools has really become the Holy Grail when it comes to where people want to live. One of the things that is REALLY shocking me in this particular market is how the escalation of prices has significantly eroded even these dearly held notions.

The truth is that if you’re qualified up to $1,000,000 and you want to buy a house in an area with API scores over 850 you’re pretty much screwed in the area between Millbrae and Redwood City. As I’ve written about before…it won’t be long until that’s the case with townhouses in Foster City as well. This is actually amazing and what’s happening is that folks are deciding that buying in San Mateo (for example) is better for their situations than buying in Fremont or South San Jose where schools are better. In the last several months 7 houses have sold in San Mateo Village over $1,000,000. I clearly remember when a house on Pasadena Street there listed for $305,000 and I thought the sellers were crazy. A million dollars for The Village? Amazing! The API for the school there, George Hall, is 823. I also heard about another house in San Mateo on the west side with the school’s API of 831 just sold $500,000 over asking at $2,200,000.

Last year I had a listing in South San Francisco that got 2 offers and sold for $15,000 over asking. The market in Foster City was super hot then too. The reason for the slowness there? The school’s API is 800. Last week I listed a townhouse up there in an area where the school’s API is 818…I have 11 disclosure packets out on it today and I’m looking at offers on Monday. 9 of the 11 disclosures are from agents in San Mateo and Burlingame. Their buyers would prefer the Mid Peninsula but they have to compromise. My suspicion is that what they’re deciding is to buy in these areas but have their kids attend a private school. Either that or decide to move to Fremont or Blossom Valley and commute to San Francisco (or San Mateo or wherever).

What a choice these prices are putting on people! Buy here and get something much smaller than you need or want…if you can buy at all, or eliminate most of your criteria including good public schools to save yourself a 2 hour commute. The storm that I thought was coming is really a lot worse than I thought.

School Growth

The new and improved Foster City school looks fantastic, huh? Yet, the discussion/debate about more schools continues. It continues for good reason too. Oddly, or not oddly, the subject of new schools is a hot one in communities all over the Peninsula. Seems like everywhere I go I hear constant debate about this topic. I’ve got some clients looking in Los Altos and it came to light on a house we were looking at that the gorgeous park that was just at the end of the street from a home we were looking at was being considered for redevelopment into an elementary school. As you can imagine, plenty of folks in this part of Los Altos are not looking too kindly to the idea.

Same story here of course…as it is in San Carlos and San Mateo and on and on and on. How do we resolve it? Overcrowding in schools is a real concern. 250 kids a year are joining just the San Mateo-Foster City school district. That’s a need for 75 new classrooms. Bowditch has a plan to ad onto the school and accept 5th graders to take the edge off of the elementary schools. There’s lots of kids out there and this issue is simply not going away. Available vacant land isn’t being created…there’s going to have to be a solution for all these new kids and demand for schools. There solution is going to have to come from us paying for it in some way…and it’s going to come from in an area of land that will need to be redeveloped for that purpose.


I guess it goes without saying that good schools are a pretty good element for an community’s property values. Good schools are a reason people decide to live in certain places. In Foster City the schools are both fantastically good and are also a very good reason why prices are stable here. Every year the API scores for all the FC schools shine and as a result many people are attracted to this town.

Basic stuff you say, right? Well what surprises me is how VERY important this seems to have gotten this year. The market turned around and multiple offers are now the rule again…in many places. Not all places though. It sure seems to me that buyers are more discriminating about where they are willing to write over bids on. San Carlos, Palo Alto (obviously), Menlo Park, Burlingame, parts of San Mateo, Belmont, Millbrae and Foster City have done very well this year. Other areas with weaker schools…not so much.

I wrote 3 offers in Foster City on different properties in the last week. All of them had multiple offers and went well over the asking price. In San Carlos it seems like everything that comes up is getting overbid. A large 4 bedroom house on Melendy ( a busy street) got multiples a few days ago. Meanwhile, I have a listing on a VERY nice home in Redwood City that’s 1) Priced well, 2) is in fantastic condition and 3) is in a very nice neighborhood…yet I’ve had slow traffic at best and not even a hint of an offer, much less multiple offers. The only explanation is the reputation of the schools. How did I have 300 people at 2 open houses in September at a listing in San Carlos, get multiple offers with the winner going $275,000 over asking? A few weeks later I get 60 or 70 people at 2 open houses in Redwood City and get no interest and almost a full week before we have an agent showing.

Really, it’s amazing! It has to be the schools. People have become more focus than ever on this one single criteria. They’re willing to pay more to get it too and that makes it so much more competitive in the good areas.

Square 1 for a 4th School









Well, it’s back to the drawing board for those hoping to add a 4th elementary school in Foster City…or in outlying San Mateo for that matter. Due to opposition, the idea of re-creating Charter Square for said school via a bond was dropped last Thursday by the school board. This has been a pretty wild and circular ride trying to find and agree on a suitable site for this school and who knows if it ever will happen? Here’s a couple of pretty informative links on this topic.

Elementary School Bond Put On Hold


What Will It Take To Build A New Elementary School?

New API’s

  API   Met Growth Target
  2011 Growth 2010 Base 2010-11 Growth Target 2010-11 Growth   School-
All Subgroups Both Schoolwide
and Subgroups


SAN MATEO-FOSTER CITY 840 839 D 1        
Elementary Schools
  Albion H. Horrall Elementary 730 724 5 6   Yes No No
  Audubon Elementary 901 901 A 0   Yes Yes Yes
  Baywood Elementary 932 943 A -11   Yes No No
  Beresford Elementary 829 830 A -1   Yes No No
  Brewer Island Elementary 951 948 A 3   Yes Yes Yes
  College Park Elementary 825 785 5 40   Yes No No
  Fiesta Gardens International Elementary 753 776 5 -23   No No No
  Foster City Elementary 936 940 A -4   Yes Yes Yes
  George Hall Elementary 834 821 A 13   Yes No No
  Highlands Elementary 873 865 A 8   Yes No No
  Laurel Elementary 858 838 A 20   Yes Yes Yes
  Meadow Heights Elementary 859 854 A 5   Yes No No
  North Shoreview Elementary 865 846 A 19   Yes Yes Yes
  Park Elementary 747 759 5 -12   No No No
  Parkside Elementary 786 764 5 22   Yes Yes Yes
  Sunnybrae Elementary 788 809 A -21   No No No
Middle Schools
  Abbott Middle 783 821 A -38   No No No
  Borel Middle 829 812 A 17   Yes Yes Yes
  Bowditch Middle 909 906 A 3   Yes Yes Yes
  THE Bayside S.T.E.M. ACADEMY 720 714 5 6   Yes No No

Once again, the State of California has released their API scores for schools and, no surprise, Foster City schools are doing incredibly well. Brewer Island went up to 951 and continues to be the top elementary school in the district while Audobon stayed even at 901 while FC School dropped slightly…although to a spectacular 936 from 940. Bowditch is also the top middle school as well. This continues to be good news for homeowners here as these scores always weigh favorably on buyers making their decisions. Congratulations to the schools!

4th School Delay

The big $25 million bond to build a 4th Foster City school will not go on the November ballot after all. Officials decided last night to pull it to conduct more studies on the possible site. They’re pretty tight lipped about their location as well. District officials are still planning to construct the new school, they just need more time to put it all together before it goes before voters. Here’s a link to the SM Daily Journal article about this:

Schools Pull Bond From Ballot

New School=Tax

It would appear that the addition of a fourth school here in Foster City is going to come along with a tax in order to pay for it. The land can be purchased through funds through the 2008 Measure L. The contruction of the new school is to be funded by a bond measure costing $18 to $20 per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value.

The details of this big event were published in the Daily Journal a couple of days ago. Here’s a link:

Fourth School May Mean Tax For Foster City

How Much?

Now a dollar figure has been attached to building a 4th elementary school in Foster City. That number is 40 million. It would be come via a bond measure that would likely go before FC voters this November too.

What’s interesting is that the vote will most likely be contained to Foster City residents only. The cost won’t be shared by the San Mateo side of the district…which has typically been the case in the past. This’ll sure be an interesting arguement. I’m going to be anxious to see how it plays out in the community! Here’s a link to the SM Daily Journal article:

New School In Foster City May Require $40 Million Bond

So Close…Yet So Far

In yet another classic example of a dog chasing it’s own tail…the San Mateo-Foster City School District is targeting private property in Foster City on which to build a new elementary school. Here’s how the Mercury-News reported it the other day:

“District officials told the board Thursday that they plan to pursue talks over the next two months to acquire private land in Foster City. The district would also survey residents to determine what they are willing to do to support construction of a fourth elementary school in Foster City, officials said.”

Seems like it was just a  month or so ago that the District was talking about a big parcel in San Mateo at the end of Mariner’s Island Blvd. Guess that’s not the only idea they’re thinking about. I just have one question though…any idea where this big piece of public land is going to come from? The only big vacant area I can think of is the dreaded 15 acre site/Village Square. I’m thinking the city’s not going to give that one up. They’ve been clear on this one in the past…as they should be in my opinion. Outside of that, where is this dream property coming from? Think the Metro Center is going to be bulldozed? Is Charter Square big enough? Where’s is this elusive private 5 acres?

I sort of had to laugh at the last part of that quote above too…about the district surveying residents about their willingness to build a 4th elementary school. Are they going to ask residents to give up their residences? Maybe half of Antigua could be bought…or all of Foster’s Landing or Lantern Cove? Actually, come to think of it, I did hear a rumor a few years ago about Lantern Cove being sold or converted into condos…maybe it could be scraped and the land converted into a school!

I honestly can’t think of another alternative…can you? Meanwhile, the photo above sort of says it all to me. One day dizziness will probably cause an end to all this. One things for sure…we havn’t heard the end of this topic. Here’s the wholoe Merc story:

School District Pursues Private Land In Foster City For New Campus

The 4th School

The San Mateo-Foster City school district has come up with a new idea about the addition of another elementary school for kids in this town. It’s going to be discussed tonight in closed session at a board meeting, but the idea is that a 4th school could be added at the end of Mariners Island Blvd (technically in San Mateo) and end the drama and arguement about what part of FC (park, 15 acre site…etc) gets the school.

The area is an almost 3 acre lot that’s essentially across the street from Gilead Sciences and 3rd Avenue. A developer had the idea for a condo project at that location but never followed through with their plans…thus the opportunity for this l0cation.

Seems like an interesting compromise, but certainly it’s one that would eliminate most of the Foster City kids being able to walk to the school. Anyway, here’s a link to the San Mateo Daily Journal story:

Vacant Lot Eyed For New School Site