There’s no hiding the fact California can be an expensive place to live.
According to data from Zillow, the median home value statewide is $512,800—more than 2.5 times the national median. Stats like this leave many home shoppers wondering, “Where are the most affordable places to live in California?”
Experts tackle the question with a variety of methodologies—some focus on overall cost of living while others zero in on home prices. We combed through several different studies and compiled our top six contenders. Read on for affordable options in Northern California and Southern California, plus a few ideas for home shoppers seeking a small-town experience.
Affordable places to live in Northern California
Median home value: $418,200
Median household income: $74,001
This charming city, located one hour north of San Francisco, features a historic downtown area and family-friendly atmosphere. Vacaville is also a short drive from the wine meccas of Napa and Sonoma. Major employers include biotechnology firm Genentech, which has a 100-acre campus in the city. Vacaville is also known for its shopping, thanks to its mix of expansive outdoor shopping centers, locally-owned boutiques and premium outlet stores.
Median home value: $307,600
Median household income: $42,342
If you’re seeking the lively feel of a college town plus access to a variety of outdoor activities, look no further than Chico. Home to California State University Chico, the city is about 90 miles north of Sacramento and thrives on a rich Native American and Gold Rush history. Chico residents enjoy Bidwell Park, the 13th largest municipal park in the US and a world-renowned farmers’ market.
Affordable places to live in Southern California
Median home value: $408,600
Median household income: $74,610
Located in southwestern Riverside County, Murrieta is midway between San Diego and Los Angeles. The city is focused on economic development, with a particular emphasis on health care: Loma Linda University Medical Center and a new Kaiser Permanente complex anchor its North Murrieta Technology Corridor. As one of the fastest growing cities in Southern California, young families are relocating to Murrieta for its great climate and family-oriented community.
Median home value: $257,700
Median household income: $37,047
This city of 216,000 residents is just east of Los Angeles and considers itself “California’s outdoor playground.” Enjoy a range of nearby activities, from snow sports in the San Gabriel Mountains to camping in the Mojave National Preserve. First settled by Spanish missionaries in the early 19th century, San Bernardino has grown into a modern community with a bright future. Major industries include railroad, education and health care.
Affordable small towns in California
Median home value: $269,900
Median household income: $37,094
This Humboldt County town of 27,000 residents is 280 miles north of San Francisco. Eureka is known for its natural beauty and abundant outdoor activities like kayaking, hiking and fishing. Eureka is also home to Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods. Primary industries include healthcare, retail and tourism-related services; agriculture, forestry and fishing are among the highest-paying.
Median home value: $426,700
Median household income: $53,984
Auburn is nestled along Interstate 80 in Placer County, about two hours’ drive from Lake Tahoe. The city of 14,000 boasts a busy calendar of events, with everything from rodeos to an antique fair and parade of lights. Auburn is also the Endurance Capital of the World, hosting the epic Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and dozens of other long-distance sporting events each year.