As part of a backup plan, in case buying a place up north in the woods with friends doesn't pan out, I'd had in mind that maybe I could find something small around here on the Peninsula that I could buy by myself. I hadn't actually checked the market, focusing on the up-in-the-woods plan, but I went and looked today.
I have a lot of friends in Alameda, where word has long since gotten out that it's a nice place to live with good schools and low crime in most places, so a 900 sq. ft., 2 bedroom/1 bath starter home there now sells for $550,000-700,000. This PDF chart says that entry-level prices for all of Alameda County (which includes a lot of places you don't want to live) jumped 25% over the course of last year. Overall prices "only" rose 13%, which indicates to me that the bottom of the price range is being squeezed upward toward some ludicrous new minimum. The Peninsula is only slightly better: in Redwood City, the absolute lowest-priced MLS listing I could find--this is with no search criteria at all--is an 880 sq. ft. house in a not-very-nice part of town, for $389,000. I saw a 720 sq. ft. for nearly $600,000. Even if there were a way for me to reasonably afford that (there isn't), I'd have to be insane to buy at these prices. Even in California, 13-50% price increases per year aren't rational or sustainable.
I'll stick to the north woods, or just sit around saving my pennies until the next earthquake.