Can you still buy a house for $500k in the Bay Area?

Is there anywhere in the greater Bay Area where you can buy a single-family home (not a condo) for $500,000 or less?

I’m working on finalizing a divorce and trying to figure out the future for me and me 2 kids, of whom I have custody (ages 7 and 10). I had hoped to stay in the house my ex and I bought together, but I can’t afford to buy him out given that the current appraised value is almost triple what we paid for it (bought during the Recession).  My income is very modest, but I expect to have a decent amount for a down payment if we sell the house.  After running some numbers it looks like 500K is about the max I can afford.

I’m a Bay area native, grew up in Berkeley and El Cerrito, and have lived in Oakland for 20 years, but I know I couldn’t buy a shoebox for 500K in any of those cities.  For those of you who have been in the market recently, where should I look?

I’m not looking for anything big or fancy, just a single-family home with a yard, in a relatively safe neighborhood (wouldn’t expect it to be crime free, since crime is a reality in an urban area, just want my kids and I to feel safe walking to the local park, or sitting on the porch after dark, that kind of thing).   I don’t care if it has an updated kitchen or the latest fixtures, but I do need it to be structurally sound, since I won’t have money for a big project like a new roof or foundation anytime soon.

Other things that are important to me: racial diversity, a decent-sized liberal population, and good special education services in the local public schools (one of my kids has learning disabilities). I work primarily in Berkeley but spend 1 or 2 days a week in Hayward, so anything too far north would be too much of a commute.

Leaving the Bay Area entirely isn’t an option for a variety of reasons.

Thank you in advance for any helpful suggestions!  This process has been really hard--soul-draining, to be honest--but I’m hoping for a better life for me and my kids in the future.

Parent Replies

Parents, want to reply to this question? Sign in to post.

I don't think you can buy a single-family home with a yard in a safe-ish neighborhood in the East Bay within a half-hour commute of Berkeley for $500,000. You might want to consider buying a condo/townhome or renting. Your income level may qualify you for affordable housing developments, and you could get on a waitlist now for family-sized units. OR, consider a bigger move including a new job that you could reasonably commute to from Brentwood/Oakley, where single family homes are pretty affordable (compared to El Cerrito). Finally, perhaps you and the kids could negotiate to stay in the family home and you pay your ex "rent" as part of buying him out - but I'm not a lawyer, so please consult with one on your options. Good luck!
 

At your price point only Richmond and the flats of Oakland between Fruitvale and San Leandro have SFH in "large" numbers.  There are a tiny number in San Leandro, Hercules, Rodeo and El Sobronte.  If I were in your shoes, I'd try to stay in your current home or rent if you want to stay nearby.  I'd also explore trying to buy a duplex for around $1mm with another party.  It'll be tough to buy a 2 br condo on your budget.