Moving To San Mateo California? Here's What You Need To Know

Raziel Ungar

Raziel Ungar

May 25th, 2024 - 12 min read

If you want to move to an area with proximity to both San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and you’re interested in an area with a lot of different neighborhoods, we actually have over 27. You're absolutely going to want to check out San Mateo. In this video, I'm going to share with you what it costs to live here, what are some of the different amenities, and why I think San Mateo is such a great place to live.

We're here in downtown San Mateo, and this is the heart of the city. Now, there's some other pretty awesome shopping areas, too. But this is the most popular, and it's the biggest. You can actually walk from one end of downtown San Mateo to the other in just about five minutes.

In the downtown area, there's 171 different restaurants, bars, and cafes. It's a really sophisticated dining scene with great breakfast spots, lunch spots, dinner spots, and just places to go have a drink after work or on a Saturday night. Now, if you're into Mexican food, there's 11 Mexican places, and two of my personal favorites are La Cumbre, which has been around for a long time, and also Pancho Villa, which has really good, fresh Mexican food.

Now if you're into pizza, two of my personal favorites are Rise, which is in a new location next to the train station, and really high ceilings, and great ambiance. Then also Amici’s, which I've been going to ever since I was a kid. And they have excellent, excellent pizza.

Now, if you're into cookies, one of my personal favorites on the whole peninsula is Antoine's, and they've been open just a few years. They have really fresh cookies. One of my favorite places to go to is Draeger’s. Now, this is a grocery store, but it's an uber-high-end grocery store. It's two stories and has a beautiful escalator that goes from the bottom to the top. Their pastry and dessert department is fantastic. I'm a little biased against Copenhagen Bakery in Burlingame because they have fantastic cakes. But Draeger’s is equally awesome. And if you're looking for something that's a little bit extra, that's the place to go to. They also have one of the largest wine cellars of any place on the West Coast.

Now if you're into working out, we do have SoulCycle, and we have an Equinox. Right now we're in Central Park, which is right next to downtown San Mateo, and it has a really cool hidden gem. I'm going to take you inside and let's take a look at the Japanese Tea Garden. The Japanese Tea Garden here was established in 1966 with donations from hundreds of individuals, including money, time, and contributions from various garden clubs. It's open for a few hours every day and is maintained by the city of San Mateo. It’s a really cool place, like in the heart of a city of 100,000 people.

There are two things in Central Park that I personally love. One is Music in the Park, which is held one weeknight throughout the whole summer. You'll see people putting out picnic blankets, and enjoying a glass of wine. It's very family-friendly and you’ll see people dancing. The other cool thing that happens in Central Park is San Mateo on Ice. They actually set up an outdoor ice skating rink in the baseball infield. People come from throughout the peninsula to get their ice skating on between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's just a really good community event. You can even get your hot chocolate too.

There are so many different parks in San Mateo, and I want to highlight just a few of those. Let's start with Beresford Park, in the Beresford Park neighborhood adjoining San Mateo Terrace. They just underwent a major renovation of the playground a few years ago. There's also a skate park, bocce ball court, softball field, and a great covered area for birthday parties. We’ve been to many there over the years for our son.

There's also Paddock Park, which is part of the huge development of Bay Meadows Phase Two that was done in the last few years by Wilson Meany. And there's 11 different communities, and Paddock Park anchors it. There's a cool basketball court. It’s just a great place ... you can walk around with all the shops and restaurants nearby.

My favorite place to go for a hike is right in Laurelwood Canyon, in the Laurelwood neighborhood, which is right next to Sugarloaf. It's pretty cool because you can park on the street. You can walk down the hill, and then within a couple of minutes, you don't see any other houses, cars, or streets. It's nice and relaxing there.

If you're into walking, two of my favorite places to walk are Sawyer Camp Trail, which is right next to Crystal Springs Reservoir. You can basically go from the southern part of San Mateo all the way up to Millbrae. It’s super popular on the weekends for people biking, and walking. I would say it's like a world-class walking spot if there ever is one.

The other great spot to go for a walk is right on the Bay Trail. And you can basically go from Burlingame all the way down through Redwood Shores. But my favorite spot is right in San Mateo near Seal Point Park because there's a dog park. You can go right around the outside of Seal Point Park. It actually used to be a garbage dump decades ago, and they did such a beautiful cleanup that if you went there today, you wouldn't even be able to tell how pretty it is. The other cool thing about Seal Point Park is it's a fantastic destination for windsurfing. For anyone who's into that, if you just go east of 3rd Avenue in San Mateo, that's going to be one of the best spots to windsurf in all of the Bay Area.

Just north of Seal Point Park, if you walk on the Bay Trail for about a mile or two, you're going to get to Coyote Point, which is a rocky outcropping on a peninsula. And there's a pretty cool nature center there called CuriOdyssey. They have a small zoo, which is very popular for kids. There’s a marina there, where a lot of people who like to go sailing. It's just a beautiful place. And it's right on the edge of the border with Burlingame, at Peninsula Avenue overpass. Lastly, Coyote Point is right next to Poplar Creek, which is a very popular 18-hole golf course, which has a really good restaurant there - Par Three.

Now, let's talk about the schools. With 16,000 kids between the ages of five and eighteen, of course, there’s going to be a lot of different options. So there's 11 public elementary schools, there's four public middle schools. There's three public high schools. Those three public high schools are Hillsdale High School, San Mateo High School, and Aragon High School. In each of these high schools, they feel like a junior college campus. They have huge fields. They have beautiful facilities. And over a number of years ago, a lot of money, tens of millions of dollars, has gone into each of these campuses, making them really good places to learn and play sports.

Now, there's also a number of private schools in San Mateo. And the public schools are fantastic. There’s Saint Matthew's, Episcopal Day School, The Carey School, and then there's the Nueva School, which has both the middle and high school campus.

There's three libraries in San Mateo. Where I'm at now is the main library. In August 2016, the library underwent a $35 million renovation. And what's cool about that is they wanted to preserve an existing redwood grove. And so they ended up building the structure right around that. Plus, there's two other libraries in San Mateo that are branch libraries, so it's nice wherever you live, it's very easy to get to a library. In fact, we were just on our way out of the library, and I just saw this. And this is the community puzzle table, so this is pretty cool I've never seen anything like it where you can just sit down, continue working on the puzzle, leave after half an hour, and I guess the next person comes.

Now, if you're into the arts, the San Mateo Performing Arts Center is on the San Mateo High School campus. It's actually the largest theater between San Francisco and San Jose. Not only does the high school get a lot of use out of it, but it’s open to other organizations, like the Peninsula Speaker series, which brings in thought leaders from around the world like Barack Obama. Some notable speakers in the series include Jane Goodall, Walter Isaacson, Ken Burns, Michael Pollan, Anthony Fauci, and Malcolm Gladwell. I’ve been to the speaker series many times, and it's always been a really memorable experience.

One thing I love about San Mateo, even though it feels like a small town, there's so many big city attributes that you find. So right now we're at Hillsdale Mall. There's over 120 stores at Hillsdale Shopping Center, including Nordstrom, Macy's, and many smaller brands. Of course, we have an Apple Store over here and Lululemon. It's a great place to come and hang out. We even have a Pinstripes bowling alley and a luxurious movie theater where they serve lunch, dinner, or snacks right at your seat. It's just a fun place to come. It's also dog-friendly. In 2016, there was a $150 million renovation that was done to upgrade the food court. This whole area is pretty new. In terms of location, we're a couple of miles from downtown San Mateo. We’re right at Hillsdale Boulevard and El Camino, so it's pretty central. So if you live anywhere pretty much from Burlingame through Redwood City, this is like the big mall experience that you're going to come to.

In San Mateo, we also have a wonderful junior college system, College of San Mateo (CSM). CSM, as it's known, has about 13,000 students who are enrolled there. It's a great campus, 152 acres right off of Hillsdale Boulevard and the 92 freeway, with gorgeous views of the whole peninsula. I used to teach a Home Buying 101 and Home Selling 101 there for about eight years through their community education program. And it was a really fun experience. Also at CSM, there's a fantastic farmer's market, which is the best one in the whole peninsula, in my opinion. It's every Saturday morning and it's also the biggest. Each town has its own farmer's market, like downtown Burlingame, and downtown San Carlos. But the one here in San Mateo is pretty massive.

The other nice thing about CSM is the San Mateo Athletic Center, known as SMAC. They have a swimming pool, and there's a lot of space there to work out, with membership fees being pretty reasonable. If you're finding this video helpful or informative, please consider liking and subscribing to my channel. I speak with homebuyers like you every day who are thinking about making a move to San Mateo.

Now, you might be wondering, what does it cost to buy a home in San Mateo? San Mateo is interesting compared to a lot of other towns nearby because, with 100,000 people in 27 different neighborhoods, we have a huge variety of different price points. You can buy a starter home for $1.1 to $1.5 million in the Shoreview Parkside neighborhood, for example, or you can spend all the way up to $5 to $8 million for a larger square footage home on a larger lot in San Mateo Park.

And what drives some of that variation in price? A lot of it has to do with the neighborhood feel. And neighborhood feel sometimes comes down to tree density. Is it a really flat neighborhood? Is it up in the hills? More people will pay more money to be in a flat, walkable area. So it's not like a strength or weakness, it’s just something that people pay more for. Whereas if you're up in the hills, you're typically going to get a lower price per square foot and a little bit more lot.

Now there's a few exceptions to that, like in the flatter areas like San Mateo Park, for example, you're going to find a much larger lot. Last year, there were 425 homes that sold in San Mateo with a median home price of $1.8 million. It is pretty expensive, but when you think about how many homes are sold here, it's actually not a lot. When you think about 27 neighborhoods and 100,000 people, there’s just never a lot of choice. I wish that my clients would say to me over the years, “Raziel, there's these three amazing homes, which one should I write an offer on?” Unfortunately, no one ever says that to me. And that's not unique to San Mateo. That's for all these towns in the peninsula. If you see something that looks compelling, you definitely want to move quickly.

Now for those looking for a townhome in San Mateo, that's a nice blend of options for someone who's like, “I don't know if I want a condo. I want something with a yard. I don't want anyone above or below me.” You're looking at a price point on that starting at about $1.3 to about $1.7 million. Some of my favorite townhomes in San Mateo are in the Bay Meadows neighborhood, where you can get some that are pretty high, square footage. You usually have a two-car attached garage, and most of those were built just in the last few years, so you really get a nice touch of modern luxury and a really good modern floor plan.

So I'm going to share with you now a little bit about five different parts of San Mateo, just to give you an idea of what your dollar will get you. Let's start with where we are now, which is in the Baywood neighborhood. This is a collection of five different neighborhoods. We are just west of El Camino, so west of downtown San Mateo. So super flat, super walkable, and really nice to get into downtown easily. We're south of Crystal Springs Road. We're east and west of Alameda, so very close to that area. And then we're north of the 92 freeway.

The five neighborhoods that this encompasses, of course, Baywood, Aragon, Homestead Husing, Foothill Terrace, and Baywood Knolls. When you think about real estate within these five different neighborhoods, Baywood itself is the most expensive because it's the closest to downtown, lot size is a little bit bigger than most in San Mateo. You see some lots that are 6,000 to 8,000 square feet, which is bigger than the typical 5,000 to 6,000 square feet. It's mostly flat. As you head a little bit more west up to Alameda and Baywood Knolls, it's still pretty pricey back in there, but that price just drops a little bit. So you could be five blocks, one direction, and you could be several hundred thousand dollars less because you're a little bit farther from downtown and Central Park and all that. It's not a big deal. It is just what your preference is and what you're drawn to the most.

You have three schools here. So you have Baywood Elementary School, Borel Middle School, and Aragon High School. What's nice about that is you can walk to all three schools, which is something that you can't buy in Burlingame or Hillsborough or any of the other very, most desirable areas in other parts of the peninsula, so I think that's pretty nice. The other thing I really like about Baywood is it has pretty high tree density. There's a diversity of architecture, so none of the homes look the same. What's nice about this area, is you get a lot better price per square foot, probably about 10 to 15% better, than comparable neighborhoods in Burlingame, like Easton Addition and Burlingame Park. But you're going to spend a little bit less. And the schools are rated just as high as they are in Burlingame, too. 

Price-wise, within these five different neighborhoods, we're going to be starting in the high $1 million range, for a two-bedroom house, but there's not really that many two-bedroom homes. In Burlingame, there's a higher percentage of two bedrooms than there are in the greater Baywood area. So most homes are going to be three bedrooms and four bedrooms. Not too many five bedrooms.

Right now, I'm in San Mateo Park. This is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the whole peninsula. And I'm going to share with you why. First of all, you have these huge, wide-open streets. You have some really beautiful older homes with tons of character. The other thing about San Mateo Park is the lot size. So for a comparable price, you're going to be getting more here than you would in Burlingame’s Easton Addition or Burlingame Park. There, you're going to see more like a 5000 or 6000-square-foot lot. Of course, there are oversized lots in Burlingame. In San Mateo Park, most lot sizes are going to be 7,000 to 10,000 square feet. So you just get a lot more space in between homes. 

Now, in the Baywood neighborhood, which is the second most expensive neighborhood in San Mateo, you're still going to see larger lot size than you would in a comparable neighborhood, price-point wise, in Burlingame, but it's not going to be as big as you'd see here in San Mateo Park.

In case you're wondering where San Mateo Park is located, San Mateo Park is really close to downtown Burlingame. It's close to downtown San Mateo. It's west of El Camino. It's just south of Burlingame Park, so Barroilhet is the dividing line between San Mateo Park and Burlingame and parts of Hillsborough. And then in the south, it's Crystal Springs Road, and there's a little pocket of Hillsborough there. It's a very small neighborhood, with not that many houses, but it takes up a good piece of geography. Just because the lot sizes are so big. You'll even see some in the neighborhood with swimming pools and some occasional 15,000 to 20,000-square-foot lots with some really large homes. Price-point-wise, you're looking about $3 million to $5 million, but there's many homes that will sell at $6 million to $7 million, including one that's for sale off market now for $9 million.

The other thing I love about San Mateo Park is how spacious it is. It feels super open. You have very high tree density. It's about as high as any other area you could talk about on the peninsula. You have a lot of really older homes, and tons of character. The homes are very spread out. San Mateo Park is at the top of a lot of people's list, especially when you're looking to compare to the high end in Burlingame and the lower end in Hillsborough.

Now I'm going to share with you a little bit about the Beresford Park neighborhood in San Mateo Terrace. This is a neighborhood that's just south of the 92 freeway. It is west of El Camino. And then on both sides of Alameda, just north of Hillsdale Boulevard in San Mateo. So I really like these neighborhoods. They're at the top of a lot of people's list. And I'll share with you why. It's flat, it's walkable. There's pretty high tree density. It has a really good neighborhood feel to it. There's also Beresford Rec Center, which is right next to Beresford Park, which is, one of my favorite parks in San Mateo, right after Central Park in downtown. In Beresford Park, there's even a garden where you have to wait, I think for years, if you want to get your own little plot to do some gardening.

In terms of real estate in the neighborhood, you're going to see that prices range from about a high $1 million range up to the low $3 million range. So you can find like a two bedroom at the lower end of that, a nice three bedroom is going to be like low to mid $2 million, depending on the lot size. And if you have a lot of utility lines visible or not.

I really like the Lanes neighborhood in particular, which is the Hillsdale part and which is just at the southern end of the neighborhood. It's a really cool pocket where you have several cul-de-sacs, and then you have two parks at both ends of the cul-de-sac. And there's nowhere else in the peninsula that has something that cool.

Now, I want to show you a little bit about the Shoreview and Parkside neighborhood. This pops up on a lot of people's list because it is the most affordable neighborhood, and affordable being relative, to buy in San Mateo. Prices for a single family home in here are going to be about $1 million to $1.7 million. But the sweet spot is about $1.2 million to $1.5 million. This neighborhood is east of 101. It's south of Coyote Point, and it's just north of, like, the 92 freeway. So it covers a really long strip, and it's bordered by San Francisco Bay on the east side of it. It’s a pretty nice neighborhood. I like it because it's very flat. It's walkable. You can easily hop onto the Bay trail, which is one of my favorite places to go all the way from Burlingame down through Redwood Shore, so it's a great spot to get some exercise the last part of San Mateo. 

The last part of San Mateo that I'm going to show you now is the Bay Meadows neighborhood. This is a fantastic spot. It actually used to be an old racetrack. Growing up, I've driven past this hundreds of times on 101. Where you would see, like this huge area and horses would run around the track. And obviously that's less popular nowadays, so it's been redeveloped into Bay Meadows Phase One and Bay Meadows Phase Two. Phase One, there's a Whole Foods there. There's a bunch of different restaurants, some apartments, some single family homes and townhomes. And where we are now, in Phase Two, this has all been built out. The oldest part of this is about 6 or 7 years old. And there's a corporate campus here for SurveyMonkey, for Franklin Templeton, and some other pretty big businesses. And there's some really good places to eat here. We have a Blue Bottle Coffee. We have a Roam Artisan Burgers. There's a Humphry Slocombe ice cream.

There's 11 different residential communities here that are all pretty unique, that range in price from townhomes starting about $1.5 million, to some of the bigger single family homes. There's only several dozen of those. And those all go on up to about $3 million. What's nice about these, though, is you have really good floorplans. All the units, even townhomes, pretty much have attached garages. The units are a little bit more vertical though, so you could have a garage on the bottom level and then living room, main area and then bedrooms up top, if you're in one of the townhomes. And a single-family home, you could have a two-car garage side by side and living space on the ground floor, and then 3 to 4 bedrooms on the top floor. And sometimes you'll even see a deck up top with solar. I think this is a really cool area. 

Property taxes here are a little bit higher than everywhere else, It's pretty much the best master plan community that we have in San Mateo County. Sure, you can go in the South Bay to get some other new construction, but if you're wanting to be in San Mateo County and you like this very urban feel, then Bay Meadows absolutely is going to check that box.

If you're curious to learn more about what it's like to live in San Mateo County, check out my video about “14 Reasons I Love Living Here.” If you're curious to learn more about the real estate market, reach out

Like this video? Share it with others.

team photo.

Contact Raziel to find the right property for you.

With a team of experts guiding you every step of the way, our extensive knowledge and experience will ensure you have the best home buying experience possible.

Schedule a Consultation