Novato is the second largest city in Marin after San Rafael with over 50,000 residents, and occupies the northern most part of the County. Just 29 miles north of San Francisco, it’s a relatively easy commute for those working in SF. Car commutes range from 30 minutes with light traffic up to 1 hour 15 minutes on heavy traffic days, and the SMART train now connects to the Larkspur ferry.
With house prices starting around $850K and a median house price of $1,200,000 last year, it’s considered “affordable” by Marin standards. It’s often characterized as a bedroom community but the distinct neighborhoods offer a variety of amenities depending on your lifestyle priorities. Anchored by “Old Town” Novato’s Downtown Grant Ave offers a classic small town feel with boutique shops and eateries. Annual events such as the 4th of July Parade and it’s Nostalgia Days Car Show bring a hometown feel not often found so close to a major metropolitan city.
For the practical, there may be no place in Northern California that checks more boxes. Costco – yes, Blue Barn – yes, Target – yes, Rustic Bakery – yes, DMV – yes, golf courses – yes, hospital – yes, movie theater - yes, sushi, Mexican, Italian, Indian, Thai, Chinese, breweries, winery tasting rooms, yes, yes, and yes. In fact outside of San Francisco it’s one of the few places you don’t have to leave to get anything you want – it’s all here. Whole Foods, Safeway, Trader Joes and Lucky’s are all within walking distance of each other. Try that anywhere else.
The schools here are good. Parents are involved, and the PTA is active. Test scores are above average and the sense of community is alive and well. There’s a higher number of bilingual students in Novato than most other towns in Marin, and also a greater diversity in backgrounds making for a well rounded multicultural environment. (Also, see our “Novato Schools” section for more info.)
We’re also home to the scientifically minded – the Buck Institute, BioMarin Pharmaceutical, and Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, to name a few. Other notable companies include Novato Community Hospital, Bank of Marin, and Solarcraft.
Hands down, it’s the best weather in the Bay Area. The perfect combination of fog free yet not too hot. A pleasant 70 to 80 degrees on most summer days… heavenly.
Outdoor activities abound here. Hiking and biking are are the classic Marin mainstays. With over 30 community parks and open spaces, the outdoors is alive and well. Every neighborhood has multiple parks and all are close to large outdoor spaces like Mount Burdell which now has over 1700 acres of hiking trails and preserved land. There are three notable golf courses (one public and two private), a public boat launch to the SF Bay, multiple health clubs and community centers, and even a public airport, Gnoss Field, for the aeronautical enthusiasts.
Novato has a lot to offer, and from a real estate perspective is also the best value in Marin. Come visit – you might just decide to stay.