Want to buy a home? In California, you’ll have to sacrifice your entire paycheck, plus every cent you’ve ever saved, and maybe even your firstborn child.
When it comes to pricey cities, it’s hard to beat California. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego are among those cities listed as the most expensive in the United States.
In fact, San Francisco is second only to Manhattan, with an average home price of $1.2 million and a cost of living that’s 96.3% higher than the national average. Ouch!
But the good news is, a few expensive cities don’t speak for the state as a whole. It’s still possible to become a homeowner in the Golden State—if you know where to look. Here are 4 cities that won’t break the bank:
Visit California describes Eureka as “a hidden gem surrounded by ancient redwood forests, cradled by Humboldt Bay, California’s most pristine bay.”
Doesn’t that just make you want to go there right now? You can go north to Portland, Oregon or south to San Francisco, but you may not find a coastal city with the unique combination of charm and history Eureka exudes.
Sit out on the scenic waterfront, take a ferryboat cruise, and discover one treasure after another in a city that is, in its entirety, a state historic landmark.
Expect to be captivated from the moment you arrive. You’ll be awed by the ornately designed Victorians. And you’ll be happy to learn you can buy one for under $200,000.
Granted, it’ll likely be a major project house. But if you’re into that type of thing, you’ll find your fair share of exciting fixer-upper opportunities here.
Of course, keep in mind you could easily spend $500,000-ish and up for a meticulously restored place in the Old Town district that looks like it could have been plucked from San Francisco’s “Postcard Row.”
You can also buy a starter home right on the bay in the $100,000s here, and enjoy a low overall cost of living while reveling in the endless vacation vibes of this seaport town.
But, beware of the job situation; they’re not as plentiful as other areas, with employment in the area largely bolstered by Humboldt State University, St. Joseph’s Health System, and The Pacific Lumber Company.
Median home value: $249,300
Median household income: $39,720
Look, up in the sky…it’s a bird, it’s a plane. Actually, it’s a hot air balloon. That must mean it’s the first weekend in June in Temecula, when visitors descend on the city for the annual Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival.
Coincidentally, it’s also when many a California homebuyer falls in love with the city and decides to hang out for more than a couple of days.
Or, perhaps it happens during the Temecula Valley International Film Festival, on a visit to one of the city’s 40-plus wineries, at the Temecula Valley Polo Club, on one of the many championship golf courses, or at Pechanga Resort and Casino, the largest casino in the state—which also happens to be the city’s largest employer.
Gorgeous year-round weather makes these outdoor activities even more enjoyable. And a family-friendly environment with home prices that are hundreds of thousands of dollars lower than in San Diego 58 miles away means more money in your pocket to get out and enjoy all the city has to offer.
Temecula’s job market is also strong. Thousands of jobs have been created in the city over the past few years.
Outside of Pechanga Resort and Casino, employment in Temecula and the county of Riverside is driven by government, tourism, education, leisure, finance, and retail.
Median home value: $394,600
Median household income: $87,115
Just over 100 miles from Los Angeles, Bakersfield has an energy all its own and a thriving real estate market that makes homeownership downright affordable. In fact, the median home value in the city is within $1,700 of the national median.
Bakersfield is the most highly populated city in Kern County, and the ninth-most populous city in the state, so it holds conveniences abound.
Plus, there are opportunities for natural exploration and adventure, with almost 60 parks, miles and miles of bike paths and easy access to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, not to mention numerous national forests, including: Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Los Padres National Forest, Angeles National Forest, and Death Valley National Park.
Oil rigs that dot the landscape are indicative of one of the city’s top employment sectors, with agriculture, healthcare, education, and distribution industries also contributing jobs.
Two of the largest carrot growers across the country, Grimmway Farms and Bolthouse Farms, are located here, and Nestle and Frito-Lay also have plants in the area.
Median home value: $228,400
Median household income: $60,058
- Ideal weather: Temperate all year round, the summers here are a dream, with temps that can be 30 degrees (or more) cooler than inland areas. That has made the city a draw for those who can’t bear another stifling summer in areas like the San Fernando or Santa Clarita Valley.
- So much to do: There are parks and hiking and family entertainment spots, but so much of what makes Ventura ideal centers around the beach. There’s something for everyone here- you’ve got the Harbor with its family-friendly activities and tasty eateries, wineries and art galleries that fill up Downtown Ventura, and of course, the many beaches serving everyone from little swimmers to world-class surfers.
- Significant savings over other Southern California beach towns: By typical affordability standards, Ventura may not make the grade; the city’s median home value is up over $500,000—more than $120,000 more than the next-highest city on our list. Yet, if coastal living is a must, this casual beach town between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara is a bargain. By comparison, Santa Barbara’s median home value is $1,164,200, Santa Monica’s median home value is $1,722,000, and Huntington Beach’s median home value is $832,800.
Healthcare, agriculture, technology, manufacturing, and tourism help drive the local economy, with Ventura County Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, and Patagonia among the city’s largest employers.
Just outside the city are numerous other healthcare-and medical-related companies including several hospitals and the biopharmaceutical company Amgen.
Median home value: $520,300
Median household income: $81,972
Find your home in California
Will it be a little place on the coast? A home amidst the vineyards? Or, perhaps, a central California city with a booming economy is where you want to put down roots.
Whatever you’re seeking for your new home, you can find it in California—and still stay on a budget. Turns out buying a home in the Golden State can be a golden opportunity.
Header Image Source: (Vincent Delegge/ Unsplash)