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How to Snag Your Beachside Dream Home in Carlsbad, California

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With its beautiful climate, outdoor recreational opportunities — surfing, hiking, and golfing — attractions such as Legoland, the Museum of Making Music, and the flower fields in the spring, what’s not to love about beachside Carlsbad?

If you’re looking to buy a house in Carlsbad, California, but are not sure where to start, then you’ve come to the right place! Whether you are moving to the area for work, to raise your family, or to retire, you no doubt have questions about what’s available in the area, what life is like in the community, and what to look for in a home.

We’ve talked to experts in Carlsbad real estate and done the math to find the best recommendations for your budget and lifestyle. This comprehensive guide will help you zero in on your perfect piece of paradise while keeping you informed on design trends, the competition, the best time to shop, and what to look out for during home inspections.

A house you can buy in Carlsbad, CA.
Source: (Joshua Anderson/ Unsplash)

The housing stock and your budget in Carlsbad

Located in Northern San Diego County and within driving distance of both Los Angeles and San Diego, Carlsbad, California is a friendly town with something for everyone. Perhaps you’re attracted to the comradery of the Carlsbad Village. Maybe you prefer golf courses, or are happiest right on the beach. Whatever strikes your fancy, you’ll find it in Carlsbad.

The median property value in Carlsbad was $713,600 in 2017 (more than three times the national average) and has only been increasing since then. According to agent Eric Matz, who earned the Best of HomeLight Award in 2018 for being in the top 5% of agents in the area, there are a lot of opportunities in Carlsbad.

Light, beachy, and breezy are in, and dark colors are out. Design trends have “flip-flopped” in recent years, according to Eric Matz. People want contemporary design: white cabinets, lighter granite or quartz for countertops, and no heavy metal in the kitchens. Beach themes and a softer color palette are the new rule.

Given that the population of Carlsbad has increased nearly tenfold in the last half century, the bulk of the houses in the area are newer. Stucco is one of the most common exteriors you will see, along with tile roofing.

You may be weighing whether to rent or buy. Rental prices are fairly steep in the city, with the median rent at $1,869. Carlsbad does have a high cost-of-living index — 171 compared to 138 for the state of California and 100 for the nation.

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Most buyers in this area secure loans with a full 20% down payment. Expect closing costs to be around 1%. In addition to your monthly mortgage payment, you can expect a property tax rate of 1.10152%, just under the average for the state, and low compared to national property tax rates.

Homeowners’ insurance rates average $879 per year for Carlsbad as of December 2019, which is $107 cheaper than average for California and $294 lower than national average.

The lay of the land

AreaVibes gives Carlsbad a livability score of 79, which is better than 92% of areas. The city receives a B+ for crime, with rates for both violent and property crimes below the state and national averages.

It’s hard to find a better place to send your child than the local public schools in the Carlsbad area. A quick look on and you will find many of the schools in the area with ratings of 9 and 10.

Census Reporter (a Knight News Challenge-funded project which makes U.S. Census data available to the public) lists the population of Carlsbad as 115,897 as of 2018. The median age of residents is 44.4, making them older than the California mean of 36.7. The community is also highly educated, with 55.9% of residents having at least a bachelor’s degree.

The median household income is $103,866, which is 38% higher than the state median. With only 5.2% living below the poverty line and an unemployment rate of just 3%, overall, the community is thriving.

Job opportunities abound in Carlsbad; leisure and hospitality are two of the biggest industries. Other industries in the area include communications, biotechnology, and precision manufacturing.

With an average work commute of 28 minutes and only 2% of residents taking public transit to work, plan on having a reliable car if you are not within walking distance from your office.

Carlsbad is also home to people who commute to Los Angeles and San Diego for business as it allows them to live outside the major cities without being too far away.

According to US Climate Data, weather is subtropical in Carlsbad, with an average high of 75 and a low of 65 in August (the warmest month) and average high of 64 and low of 47 in December. Annual precipitation is a mere 11.85 inches. Being so close to the ocean keeps the temperatures stabilized, and residents enjoy 260 sunny days each year.

Houses you can buy in Carlsbad, CA.
Source: (Paul Hanaoka/ Unsplash)

Where to buy

As Carlsbad is a coastal community, housing prices tend to be higher near the beach and less expensive the further east you go. Bigger lots are also more available on the east end of town. The city of Carlsbad is divided into four main neighborhoods of quadrants.

The northwest is the older section of town, with smaller, historical homes. It includes the Downtown Village, The Barrio (a Latino culture-influenced area), and Old Carlsbad. Here you can find 1950s cottages and bungalows, but also newer mansions with ocean views. The older homes provide opportunities for those seeking a fixer-upper, and many buyers have successfully purchased such homes and increased their value with a remodel. This area of town is also home to Hosp Grove Park, featuring eucalyptus groves, and Buena Vista Lagoon. Sometimes homes that back up to busy roads can mean lower home values, so if you’re keen to grab a house that’s both near the beach and close to I-5 for a quick commute, this may be the right place for you.

The northeast contains a combination of single-family homes and additional 1950s cottages, with larger properties found in Chestnut Hills, and newer homes in Calavera Hills. This region is home to the 110-acre Lake Calavera Nature Preserve and an extinct volcano. There is a lot of opportunity to find a quieter home in this area, as you are further from the beach and the heart of the city.

The southwest contains an expanse of coastal properties up to the center of Carlsbad. It is home to the resort towns of Avaria and Ponto Beach, with million-dollar beach houses. Golf clubs, country clubs, lagoon and beach access abound in this area full of newer homes. This region is also home to Legoland and the flower fields, which could be a drawback during tourist season.

The southeast is where you will find even more newly constructed homes, as well as additional golf courses, and the La Costa Resort and Spa. The south part of town is also where you will find the Carlsbad Village shopping area and several highly rated restaurants, including Paon Restaurant and Wine Bar. If being part of a large, planned community with access to amenities is your thing, this might be the place for you.

Inspection issues and problems

Before finalizing any home purchase, you will want to get the home inspected for all the standard potential problems. According to Richard Overton, a local home inspector with over 30 years experience, you should also keep in mind that, “Carlsbad has some older inventory — pre-1960s beach homes, which were not always built on continuous foundations, and anchor bolts. Any raised foundation should be carefully reviewed.”

He also recommends a video survey of sewer lines for any homes built in the mid-’70s or earlier, especially if trees in the area have been removed.

Another thing to keep in mind is that inventory in the area is low, demand is high, and while smaller housing developments are being built, they are few and far between. Larger housing developments are being considered in the area, but they’re at least a few years away.

The low inventory results from a trend in longtime residents sticking around and choosing to remodel instead of move, as well as a steady influx of new people moving to the area.

A good house that’s priced right sells quickly. If you consistently put in low offers on homes, you will be beat out almost every time — so if you’re serious about a property in the area, you will have to speak with your wallet.

Pencils used to help you buy a house in Carlsbad, CA.
Source: (Frank Vex/ Unsplash)

Tips for buyers

According to HomeLight’s data, the worst time for sellers is February, so you might assume this to be the best time for buyers. However, that isn’t necessarily the case, according to Matz, as the pickings might also be pretty slim during that time of year.

“The best time to sell the coastal properties — the ones that are beachfront or beach-close — is summertime because there’s more traffic, there’s people there,” says Matz. Recently, he says he has seen more activity in October and November, and these months prove to be excellent times for buyers looking for a good deal.

As the year comes to an end, you might be more likely to find motivated sellers, but there might also not be as much inventory to see. A top buyer’s agent in Carlsbad helps clients buy 1.8 times more homes than an average agent, and saves those buyers an average of $121,257 on their home purchase.

“You can find a $550,000 home; you can find a $1.9 million dollar home,” says Matz. “You just have a plethora of choices, and that’s one of the nice things about Carlsbad as a community.”