Over the years the answer has remained the same: the further north from the Golden Gate Bridge, the more you can buy for your dollars. Median home prices decrease with the distance north from San Francisco, with homes in Novato selling at about half the cost of homes in Mill Valley. Here are prices in 2023:
Town Median Home Price Avg. Price per Square Foot
Mill Valley $2.11M $1,074
Corte Madera/Larkspur $1.65M $974
San Rafael $1.30M $724
San Anselmo/Fairfax $1.25M $848
Novato $1.10M $581
Notable difference in home values as you go north!
San Rafael and Novato are on the direct route north through Marin. They both provide great houses in beautiful neighborhoods for less money than towns such as Mill Valley and Larkspur, further south. Read on to find out about the pros and cons of each.
Note that home prices in San Anselmo and Fairfax are about the same as San Rafael.
San Rafael, a beautiful city with diverse and interesting neighborhoods
Distance to the Golden Gate Bridge: 15 miles or 17-min drive
Land area: 23 sq. miles
Population: About 60,000
Number of homes: About 24,000
San Rafael, located in central Marin, is the largest city by population and the second largest in land area, spread though many physically diverse and attractive neighborhoods. The thriving downtown, made famous by George Lucas’s 1973 movie American Graffiti, has a large variety of restaurants and shops and the Smith Rafael Film Center.
- Better home values than towns to the south.
- Wide choice of home styles and locations.
- Great shopping and resources.
- More ethnic diversity than other towns in Marin.
- Warmer weather than towns to the south.
- Good public transportation (bus and SmartTrain).
- Many good schools but some with lower achievement levels.
- Daytime traffic is heavy in downtown areas.
To learn more about San Rafael see the San Rafael pages.
Novato, the northernmost city in Marin
Distance to the Golden Gate Bridge: 37 miles, 42-minute drive.
Land area: 30 square miles
Population: About 56,000
Number of homes: About 22,000
Novato is the largest city by land area, located in northern Marin County. It is very different from other parts of Marin because of its sprawling acreage, beautiful rolling hills, and small-town feeling. Marin County extends north and west of Novato for about 30 miles into lovely hills with small ranches, a few villages, and Pacific Ocean coastline.
- More homes and more inventory help keep prices down.
- Good schools that are avidly supported by the community.
- Easy access to miles of open space in north-west Marin.
- Closer to Sonoma and Napa.
- Charming Grant Avenue downtown area with stores and restaurants.
- Warm weather.
- Longer commute to SF.
To learn more about living in Novato, see our Novato pages.