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California

Southern California also has a few farming communities and small, coastal towns, but the area is often dominated by the rambling expanse of Los Angeles and its large suburbs. There, finance, real estate, tourism, medical and entertainment sectors reign. At the far southern point of the state is historic San Diego, also a powerhouse in healthcare, tourism and entertainment.

Buying a Home in California

California has a reputation for expensive real estate, with the median sales price climbing fairly steadily over the past two years. The current median sales price is up 4 percent over last year to $482,150, well above the national median sales price of $228,700. Even so, there are plenty of affordable cities and neighborhoods throughout the state.

Inland and Central Valley towns often offer less expensive options. Some of the most affordable home prices are found in the state’s Inland Empire region with homes in San Bernardino County selling for a median price of $212,300. Nearby Riverside County offers homes with a median price of $322,620. The Central California counties of Merced and Tulare are the most affordable in the state, with median prices at $177,240 and $175,930 respectively. The Central Valley’s Kings County is close behind with homes valued at a median price of $186,000.

Generally speaking, the areas along the state’s coastline are the most expensive since there’s a premium on coastal living. Even so, coastal counties like Los Angeles, Marin, San Luis Obispo, Monterey and Alameda made strides in affordability during the first part of 2015. According to the California Association of Realtors, the number of Californians who can afford to buy a home rose to 34 percent in 2015.

Popular Neighborhoods in California

If you prefer larger, metropolitan areas, there are a number of options. In the north, the San Francisco Bay Area is popular, although the city itself has very expensive real estate. Nearby East Bay homes offer more affordable options, with the cities of Berkeley, Hayward, San Leandro and Castro Valley offering popular alternatives for families and young professionals. Farther inland but still within commuting distance, Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Livermore and Dublin are also favorites.

Those who work in downtown Los Angeles often prefer to live in nearby areas like Westwood, Los Feliz or the San Fernando Valley towns of Chatsworth, Northridge or Sherman Oaks. Others enjoy newer suburbs farther north in towns like Thousand Oaks, Santa Clarita and Calabasas.

Sacramento residents enjoy the convenience and amenities of the Midtown and Boulevard Park neighborhoods and more suburban atmospheres of nearby towns like Elk Grove, Folsom and El Dorado Hills. Further down the Central Valley in Fresno, popular neighborhoods include Central Fresno, Hoover and Woodward Park and suburbs like

Clovis.

Buying vs. Rent to Own Homes

Conventional home purchases can be stressful, what with coordinating financial paperwork, explaining credit rating issues and coming up with a downpayment. Rent-to-own contracts offer a more low-key alternative to that stress-inducing process. Instead of an immediate downpayment, rent-to-own homebuyers pay a smaller option fee to start the process. They can move into the home immediately without having to wait for escrow to close. Each month thereafter, homebuyers pay rent in addition to a small rent premium. At the end of the rent-to-own contract period, the option fee and rent premium are credited toward the buyer’s downpayment, and the buyer finalizes financing based on the home price arranged at the start of the contract period.

Cost of Living in California

There’s a reason California has an expensive reputation, and part of that reason is the state’s cost of living that is 50 percent higher than the national average. Housing is responsible for most of that expense, costing about 137 percent more than in the rest of the country. Other expenses are closer to the national average. Locals pay from 8 to 14 percent more for healthcare, utilities, transportation and groceries than most Americans.

Still, there are several, more affordable communities in California, including Redding and Eureka in the north. There, cost of living is just about 13 to 14 percent above the national average. In the Central Valley, Modesto and Visalia are only 5 to 8 percent more expensive than the U.S. average. Tucked between Sacramento and the Bay Area, Rio Vista is a nice option, with a cost of living that is 21 percent higher than in the rest of the country. In Southern California, living expenses in Palm Springs are workable for many, costing about 23 percent more than in the rest of the nation.

Summary

With world-class universities like Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA and USC, beautiful weather and captivating scenery, living in California has many advantages. The state’s mostly temperate weather and ample rivers, mountains, coastline and lakes, make recreation and sports popular here. There are even a wide variety of award-winning professional sports teams in the state, from basketball’s Golden State Warriors and baseball’s San Francisco Giants to hockey’s Los Angeles Kings.

Although housing and the cost of living can be pricey here, there are bountiful economic and professional opportunities throughout the state. From cutting-edge high-tech enterprises, a broad financial market, a legendary entertainment industry and a host of medical research and healthcare institutions, the state employs people of all skill levels and educational backgrounds. The state’s cities are equally diverse and attractive, from towns like Eureka and Redding in the north to San Diego and Los Angeles in the south.


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