Moving to the Bay Area

Parent Q&A

  • Family of 4 relocating from Midwest to East Bay....

    (4 replies)

    Hi Everyone, We are a family of 4 moving from southwest Michigan to East Bay Area, we have money saved and still waiting to hear back from jobs. We will be permanently moving in June 2018 and looking for a rental house for around 1600 to 2500. We like to live in Walnut Creek, Orinda, Moraga, El Cerritos,San Leandro area, with nice areas for our kids to grow up around( ages 2 years old and 1 years old). Looking for a diverse, long term community for our family to join. Thanks to all in advance! 

    Hi there, if you're looking for ethnic and income diversity, El Cerrito or San Leandro is your best bet. Moraga, Orinda, and Walnut Creek are very white and affluent. I've lived in both El Cerrito and Moraga as a child and an adult, and while Moraga is a safer place (less serious crime), I much prefer El Cerrito. My neighbors are friendlier and genuine,and I feel much more of a sense of community than I ever did in Moraga. As for rent, you will have a very hard time finding a house in your price range in Moraga, Orinda, Walnut Creek, or El Cerrito. I don't know much about the San Leandro market. A 2 bedroom 2.5 bath 1800 sq ft townhome in my old neighborhood in Moraga rented for $3,500/month. A 2 bedroom 1.5 bath house on my street in El Cerrito is renting for $4,100/month. You may be able to find a 2 bedroom apartment in your price range in El Cerrito, but it will be pretty minimal and won't be in a great neighborhood. I hope other people have more helpiful advice for you, good luck!

    You'll be lucky to find a studio apartment in most of those areas at the top of your price range. San Leandro is probably your best bet of those areas, but you can also look into Hayward to the south, Hercules, El Sobrante, and Pinole to the north. Clayton maybe to the east. Craigslist tends to have most of the available options, so check on there. I live in Fairview (unincorporated Hayward), our rent is near the top of your range with enough bedrooms for your family to be comfortable, we like our elementary school (even though the ratings/test scores are low), it's definitely diverse, and there's lots of kid-friendly and often free places to go. BUT, if we were to try to move now, I'm not sure we'd find an available house in your price range- though our rent increases each year, the market rates are sky high and increasing. Prepare for the price of living shock- it's a different world than West Michigan!

     To see what rentals cost in the markets you are interested in, you should peruse Craigslist. Single family homes in Moraga rent for $3500 and up.  A 2 Bedroom condo (850 sq ft) in Moraga is available right now on Craigslist for $2500.  El Cerrito, Castro Valley, San Leandro may have options for larger single family homes in your price range.   Good luck with your move!

    Please don't move here unless the job situation is settled. I know that you've heard about how expensive it is here, and about how horrible driving is here, but you really have no idea just how difficult it is. You need to know where your jobs are going to be before you consider where to live. Your quality of life is going to change moving out here, and you don't want to worsen it even further by choosing a place to live that requires a 3-4 hour commute (it may not look so far on a map, but that's the reality of the drive). Your budget may not be realistic, depending upon what you want. I'm assuming a house with at least 3 bedrooms and a yard in a safe, nice neighborhood? You are going to need to spend a lot more than 1600-2500. 

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  • Moving to Oakland at 34 WEEKS PREGNANT + 2 KIDS: HEEELP!

    (8 replies)

    hello BPN!  I am new to this network because we JUST found out we (myself, husband, five year old, and two year old) will be moving to the Bay area because of my husband's job.  I am currently 32 weeks pregnant but by the time we get there in early June I will be 34 weeks, in need of a doctor, housing, and sanity :)  We are currently living in North Carolina and so this is a huuuuge move for us in many ways.  I was hoping to get some advice. 

    We are trying to figure out where the best place for us to live will be.  My husband's job will be in downtown Oakland and because I will be on my own most of the day with 3 kids (one starting kindergarten in the fall-- any advice on schools would be helpful as well) I am hoping for the easiest transition.  I don't want to live too far away because I would like to keep his commute to a minimum but I also want to be comfortable.  We've looked at Alameda, Berkeley/Albany area, and Walnut Creek as options.  Any other places I should look at?  My son will be starting kindergarten so a really good school is high priority.  I am worried though with what I've researched in that enrollment might be full for a good school a house we would buy/rent would be zoned to... Also, I would love a yard to be able to send my two outside without having to take a newborn every time they need outside time... but not sure if I can get that in the city so that's why we're looking at Walnut Creek but worried about the commute and some of the schools don't seem as good?  

    Maybe I am just desperate at this point for some guidance.  Feeling overwhelmed, worried, anxious, excited, and just feeling a little lost!! I'm sorry if I sound super scatterbrained.  Just the state of things currently!  Any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much in advance!! 

    Maybe consider El Cerrito? I'm not sure what your budget is, but El Cerrito is just adjacent to Albany and there are some larger houses that aren't quiiiiiite as expensive. I would consider somewhere near the BART train, as it might make for an easier to commute to downtown Oakland than driving. Good luck!

    That does sound stressful! We recently moved to Bay Farm Island, which is in Alameda, we love living here, the schools here are great, and there are a lot of town homes on BayFarm island so I imagine that it wouldn't be too difficult to find one to rent initially while you get settled, many of them have small yards, and there are also a lot of parks nearby. I only have a baby, but know a couple who moved here from NYC last October and were able to still enroll their daughter in Bay Farm Elementary, which has great ratings, so it may be worth it to check out this part of Alameda! Also, the commute to downtown Oakland isn't bad either, it takes me about twenty to twenty-five minutes. Best of luck! 

    For work in downtown Oakland, you can live anywhere near a Bart station. Try looking at San Leandro and El Cerrito too. The schools "rate" sort of average, but that is because they are diverse, not because they are bad. You can find a doctor by just checking your insurance vs. your zip code, so don't worry too much about that. Housing may be had to find remotely, you may need to stay in some type of corporate apartments until you can find a home. Good luck!

    This is a lot to do with two bigger kids and a little one on the way!  As a mama of three that did the move with just 2 at the time, I just want to say that while it's a tough transition getting to know a whole new area while being pregnant and then with a newborn, you'll make it through.  :-)

    My midwife was at Alta Bates in Berkeley, Lindy Johnson.  She's super experienced and a good fit for many, though I also liked Ellie Griffinger and Gwen Haynes.  If you need great hospital based birth providers, all three of those ladies are solid.

    I also really found an excellent community through Then Comes Baby, a pregnancy and new parent community center in Oakland.  I took an excellent prenatal yoga class with Torrey and since it was a series I got to know several women and really connected well.  Then, I did the 2nd/ 3rd Time Moms Group with Sabrina and it was very well ran, the teacher was a true pro and really actually helped me out a lot since I was struggling to figure out how to manage three and still stay sane.  And, my baby had some breastfeeding issues and she helped me tremendously, seeing things that some others didn't.   I met two women in that group who I now meet up with and our husband's are also meeting up for beers and poker!  That community connection was so important for us.

    We settled into a neighborhood called Montclair, which is up in the hills and helped me a bit since I am actually not a big fan of large cities and I like the little "Village" they have.  My middle child is at Smiles Preschool in Montclair (in the hills) and we love it.  The oldest is at Thornhill, though Montclair elementary was a great option, too.  

    Best wishes as you get used to the area!  I hope this helps a little!


    Great start for your relocation process, this Network is great!

    Sounds like a big project that you want to solve too quickly. 

    I think the first thing you should do, is find a place to stay temporarily, like a Airbnb. I know you want to "nest" but it is better to take your time and not to rush a decision. Also that can give you a better way to get to know an area...

    You also need people to help you navigate the area, maybe you have family, friends. In the past, I had help people, that did not know me, to look for rental homes ( no charge) or help family and friends ( of course clients as well) navigating the area, looking for venues, giving referrals,etc.  I just like helping people, like solving problems. I know the area well since I'm a Realtor, and I'm a Mom ( although the kids are young adults now). I have flexible time and I like to be a promoter for the Bay Area

    If you feel stuck and need a hand, call me. I'm out and about, you can text, email, whatever you need.

    I can help you find the answers .

    Good luck!

    Here's a list of cities that you might like with good schools and are easily commutable to Oakland:  Piedmont, Alameda, Moraga, Orinda, Lafayette, and Walnut Creek.  Piedmont and Alameda are drivable, and the other cities would commute via BART.  Each of the communities are different, so it gives you a range of prices and "feel".  Good luck!

    Look at San Leandro's Broadmoor Neighborhood. Roosevelt Elementary is pretty highly rated. 

    I'm not sure how much useful advice I can offer, but just wanted to say I moved from NC (Greensboro) to North Berkeley (Albany border) two summers ago with a 4- and 2-year-old. It's not an easy transition by any means, but no move with little kids is. We've found this corner of the Bay to be very family-friendly, and the commute to Oakland is not bad at all. We have a yard and lots of kid neighbors. And the schools here are great. I'm not sure what you mean about full enrollment in areas where you're zoned to--it's my understanding that the public schools have to serve all kids who are in their city. You might not get your first choice, since the lottery has already happened, but you'll get into one of the schools in your zone. And they're all good. 

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  • Preschool and Housing Advice for family from Brooklyn

    (3 replies)

    We are considering a move from Bushwick, Brooklyn to Berkeley or Oakland. My husband has been offered a museum job in SF and we are looking for advice about schools and housing. Our children will turn 2 & 4 over the summer and we will need to find spots for them for September - here in NYC that would be impossible this late in the game. I saw the list of schools with available spots on BPN - can anyone recommend any additional programs that might have openings or we can get on the wait list for? We would love to find Montessori or similar, not much more than $1000 per month per child. Ideally 9-3, but 9-1 could work too. We are also looking for a walkable neighborhood close to BART where we can afford a 3 bedroom (or two bedroom plus office/basement/other workspace) with a yard for about $3000/month starting in July or August. And we will need a decent public school for the following fall.  Huge bonus if the area has other artists and non-profit workers.  We would really appreciate any advice about neighborhoods. It is a great opportunity but we don't know if we can make it work

    Thank you in advance for your help! 

    If you only need part-time childcare, you could try a pre-school co-op (but substantial parent participation is required). ECPC in El Cerrito is an awesome preschool, and way under $1000/month for half days. Pine Crest is another good option (not a co-op), but it's a bit more than $1000/mo for part time.  They just opened last year, and may still have space for next year. We have sent our kids to both and love them both. In general, El Cerrito has most what you're looking for. It's not as charming and walkable as many parts of Berkeley and Oakland, but its very functional, and has good public schools, although they are filling up early because so many families are moving here.

    You probably need to find a neighborhood first before looking for preschools. You can find a good one, even this late in the game, and $1k per month for each child part time sounds reasonable. But your rental budget may be harder. I live where Rockridge (in Oakland) meets Claremont/Elmwood (in Berkeley) and a 2 bedroom apartment nearby is for rent right now for $3200. The 3 bedroom house next door rents for $5000 (its big). I think you'll need to budget at least $3500 for a nice 2 bedroom. In the East Bay, Berkeley and Albany have good publicity schools. In Oakland, it depends on the neighborhood. If your are willing to go farther away, Walnut Creek had pretty good schools and will be cheaper. But it is really the burbs. You might also look at El Cerriyo.

    North Bay is pretty but the commute to sf would kill me. South of SF is either super expensive or really industrial.

    we don't have the same rental broker system here-rentals mostly will be listed on Craig's List and what you see there should be pretty accurate in terms of pricing.

    good luck!

    Move to Alameda. The school district is having a bit of an issue with school placement now (long story but Lum school might have to close right away due to earthquake hazards!) but in general the public schools here are awesome and AUSD will figure it out ...  You can take the ferry to SF which beats BART hands down, and the community is walkable, fun, and super family friendly. Like anywhere in the Bay Area, though, rents are super high and $3000 won't go as far as you'd like. It should be enough for a nice apartment or townhome but a single family home might be out of reach with that budget (see the other posts that appear very week about moving out of the area because it is expensive!) Harbor Bay Realty has a lot of rental listings posted at their website for an idea of the market. (In Alameda lots of landlords use property managers which is a bit quirky in the bay area). Good luck!

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  • Housing under $1700 near Brisbane and French Program

    (17 replies)


    My husband is being transferred to the Bay Area in July. Moving from Brooklyn. I've been reading about the unaffordable housing market in San Francisco and am slightly worried... Our rental budget is max $1700 (ideally less). Anyone moving to Brooklyn? Maybe we can swap apartments? Or can anyone recommend an area or neighborhood that's affordable with low crime? How far out should we be looking? 

    If we can't find a public school we may homeschool. My son is in a French language program and really likes it, are there any French programs in the Bay Area (free, public or charter)?

    Thank you very much!


    Hi there, closer to Brisbane for more (on a relative scale) affordable housing you can look at Brisbane proper, South San Francisco, Daly City, and San Bruno.  We just moved from Millbrae (referenced by previous poster) because we were priced out of the housing purchase market there, and bought in Berkeley instead.  I don't know what the going rate is for apartment rentals now but the schools are very highly rated so I'd expect to pay rent accordingly (and I would expect far above $1700).  

    Think about someplace closer to Brisbane -- Daly City (a very multi-cultural place, mostly different Asian cultures), Brisbane, Millbrae. You also would be near the Outer Mission/Sunset in SF. I don't know what rents are like there now. 

    Thank you for the helpful advice. My husband will be working in Brisbane, we are flexible and willing to make sacrifices. I'm sure we can squeeze into a tiny apartment for a year or so. 

    I grew up in San Diego and have been waiting for the chance to move back to California. We've been very lucky, we live in a great neighborhood in Brooklyn, rent controlled apartment, way under market rate. (Been here nearly 20 years). Nice school with a French program, progressive community. But we are ready for change! 

    I will check out the recommended neighborhoods. As for schools, I'm happy to homeschool, we just need to be close to an excellent public library. 

    Thank you everyone!

    I think $1700 for a family may be tough unless you're willing to squeeze in a 1 bedroom. SF has a lottery school system, but here's a link for school districts:

    Good luck

    Charter French school in Oakland:

    With a budget of $1700 look in Martinez, parts of Concord or Hayward.

    Hi, I'm pretty sure you'll hear this from others, and I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it's not possible to find housing here in your price range.  Studio apts may occasionally appear at $1700, but not 1 bedroom (and I'm not sure if even a 1 bdr would work for 3 of you?). There are private schools in both SF and the East Bay that are bilingual French; private school costs $20,000 -$30,000/year or higher, though partial scholarships are sometimes available. If you do find an apt listed at $1700, check the neighborhood carefully. I wish you the best and wish I had better news (or some advice!) for you, it's just really tough here now. A room in someone's house can go for $1300-$1400 month. Best of luck. 

    When people say there's a housing crisis in the bay area, it's not a lie. For that price, you may be able to find a studio, maybe 1 bedroom, apartment in an area about 1.5 hours commute to the city. If you just want a room in someone else's apartment, you could get closer to the city and/or be in a safer neighborhood. You could look in the Vallejo (north) to Hayward (south) area in the East Bay, and point in between, and have a reasonable commute, but beware there are some really sketchy areas, especially in parts of Vallejo, Richmond, and Oakland- but some nice (though correspondingly expensive) areas too. If you're up for a longer commute, you could look into Tracy, Stockton, and Mountain House, but if you're traveling during rush "hour", you'd count your commute time in hours.

    I'd advise that you carefully consider how much money you'd be making here to judge if it's really worth it to move, or how much lower your standard of living will need to be, even with an objective salary increase.

    The housing is indeed crazy expensive here. I suggest that you look into Zillow and Craigslist to get a gauge. Price is also determined on the school rating. 

    Outside SF, Peninsula area is generally more expensive than the east bay.  And also depend on how long/ far you are willing to commute to work.

    Hello!  and soon welcome to the bay!  We just relocated from Indianapolis about a month ago.  In truth, I fear your "rent-spectations' might be unrealistic... We were hard pressed to find a place that would suit our families needs (family of 4) for under 3000.00/mo (we were searching in San Rafael, SF, Albany and Berkeley).  We now have a 2 bed 1 bath 1000 sq ft duplex with as small yard, and minimal amenities in the 3000.00/mo price range (read: outdated appliances, non renovated for at least 40yrs interior, good neighborhood in Berkeley).  Perhaps if you looked further out, you may find something less expensive... or if you can live in a 1bed apartment, you may find something nice... 
    I'm unfortunately not familiar with much outside of the areas we were searching, though depending where your husband will work, Sonoma is reasonable, as are, likely, further out parts of the east bay and some areas south of SF.  

    We are just entering school world (First is in Kindergarten), though know that in Berkeley anyway, public schools are on a lottery system, so you order the ones in your district by preference and get what they give you in the end.  One of the schools in our district has a Spanish program, though my son did not get into that one. Perhaps some more seasoned parents can speak to the French Language schooling opportunities...

    Best of luck and I do hope you get all you are looking for!!!! You will love the Bay Area!  It truly is an incredible place to live!!!

    There's a French-language charter school in the Oakland hills (by the zoo, I believe.) Our neighbors send their kids there:

    If you have rock solid references and can act very, very quickly, $1700 *MIGHT* cover the rent for one single bedroom within a home or apartment in San Francisco city limits. If you can look further out, you might be able to find some 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartments out in Concord, Antioch or Pittsburg for that price range. This would work best for people whose jobs in the city are close to a BART station, and would mean commutes of 90 minutes each way.

    If I'm being honest, I do not recommend the move if that is absolutely the maximum amount of rent you can afford. As a young couple, it might be more doable, but with kids I just don't see a home conducive to a family with kids in that budget. Yes, rents are cooling, but not that quickly.

    As to the French schools, how old is your son? There are a couple of French language preschool programs and private schools, but my Haitian friends weren't able to find a French language elementary or middle school that met their needs. Doesn't mean they don't exist, just means with a bit more information about age, requirements (immersion, one school period a day, after school, etc) we might be able to help identify any that would keep him happy.

    There's a new-ish French charter school in Oakland:

    There is a French immersion charter school (Francophone Charter School of Oakland) that may be able to accommodate you depending on your son's age; the lottery for next year has already run but things always shift over the summer and spots may open up, especially if he is in grades 1-4 and already proficient in French. That housing budget is going to be extremely tough, however. There's not much in Oakland/Berkeley/surrounds in that price range (and what is there will generally be a 1BR). If you don't need to be close to San Francisco you could look further out in Contra Costa County or even Vallejo if you're hoping for a 2+BR at that price point. You might also consider looking to share a house with another family if you want to be closer in. Good luck!

    I think that you're going to have a difficult time finding a decent rental with that budget. Where is your husband's job going to be? There's definitely more affordable housing the farther away you go but you should be choosing areas to look at based upon where his job will be. Certain commutes are much harder than others. For example, the commute from Berkeley to Silicon Valley is hideous and not something that you'd want to voluntarily sign up for. But the commute from Berkeley to a job that's close to BART isn't bad at all (most days!).

    I can't speak to your apartment search but there is a French charter school in Oakland called Francophone Charter School of Oakland. If your son speaks French he should have a good chance to get in. There's also a private school called Ecole Bilingue but it's pretty pricey.

    Hi and welcome!

    The Berkeley-based ecole bilingue goes k-8 but is pricey. There is a charter French school (free!) that opened last year in Oakland.

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