First, let me say that both are fantastic places to live and share many things in common. The population is similar, they are right next door to each other, both have great elementary schools and similar demographics. However, it is true that your money goes a little further in Belmont. Typically, homes in San Carlos are 10-15% more expensive.
Why? Here are the Top 3 Reasons buyers are willing to pay a little more to live in San Carlos:
(1) Downtown. When considering a move to either Belmont or San Carlos the number one reason buyers have given me for selecting San Carlos over Belmont is that San Carlos has a quaint downtown, i.e. Laurel Street. The resurgence of Laurel Street has been a huge factor for people deciding between Belmont and San Carlos. Buyers like the idea of being able to walk downtown for dining and shopping. Belmont does not really have a downtown. Carlmont Shopping Center serves a similar function, but it does not have the same feel as a downtown street, such as Laurel.
(2) Weather. It sounds ridiculous, I know…but Belmont is a few degrees cooler than San Carlos and can be a bit windy at times. How is this possible when the two towns are right next door to each other? The answer is found with Highway 92. Highway 92 connects the end of Ralston to Half Moon Bay and the Pacific Ocean. One of the main reasons Highway 92 was selected to be built on its current route is because it represents a point where the coastal hills dip, allowing Highway 92 to go up and over the hills without having to go to a higher elevation. Unfortunately, this small dip in the coastal hills allows for the breeze from the Pacific Ocean to blow right into Belmont. The coastal hills behind San Carlos and Redwood City tend to have much higher elevations, thus blocking more of the onshore breeze.
(3) Hills. Most of the homes in Belmont are in the hills. It is also true that many San Carlos homes are in the hills as well. However, San Carlos also offers a flatlands setting in two of its most prestigious districts, Howard Park and White Oaks. Some people do not like the thought of living on a hill for a number of reasons, including narrow roads, retaining wall issues and drainage problems. San Carlos’ ability to offer the hills and the flatlands, has given it a slight edge in terms of it being attractive to prospective buyers.
I think it is a matter of choosing house size over some of the other benefits listed in the original posting. We were able to buy a 4 bedroom 2,200 square foot house in Belmont for 950K….for 950K in San Carlos we would have a 3/1 or 3/2 at 1,300-1,500 square feet. For us, it was more important to have a more functional home. We are close enough to travel to downtown San Carlos or San Mateo if we want to take advantage of their downtowns. We also do not mind the slightly cooler temperatures, especially with this week’s weather!