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June 9th, 2021 at 11:00 pm

California is one of the most beautiful, popular states, and for many good reasons. Plentiful sunshine, incredible weather all year round, easy access to different biomes, and all kinds of amenities for every walk of life. The state truly has something for everyone, and it’s a popular vacation destination worldwide.

If you love California but don’t want to live there all year, buying a vacation home is a great option that gives you flexibility and a place to call home even when you’re on vacation. A vacation house is also a great investment property. Finding a vacation home isn’t without its own complications, and location is a big part of that. Here are some of the best places to buy a vacation home in the Golden State.

San Diego

There isn’t a city that quite encapsulates California’s characteristic beach going vibe like San Diego. Dozens of miles of scenic beach, a rich surf culture, and a distinctly laid back atmosphere make San Diego the go-to vacation spot for tourists looking to escape the stress of everyday life.

But don’t mistake “stressless” for having nothing to do. San Diego offers an expansive selection of things to do on top of ongoing events within the community. Outside of the sand and sea, you have the sprawling Balboa Park, a beacon of art, culture, and history that is home to gardens, museums, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The historic Gaslamp District and downtown area offer an endless array of shops and eateries, Coronado Islands provides visitors with an extra level of elegance often only reserved for the Hollywood elite. The city also offers cuisine for all tastes, including some of the best burritos and tacos.

If your vacations are synonymous with the beach, a beach bungalow in San Diego is the way to go for your vacation property. The home value will vary based on the neighborhood, but the median home value was about $700,000 in early 2021.

Furthermore, since San Diego is such a popular vacation destination, the city has a hot vacation rental market. San Diego is an excellent place to look if you’re interested in having a vacation home that doubles as a rental property.

Los Angeles

Best known for being the home of Hollywood, Los Angeles is actually much more than the glitz and glamour of the silver screen. The city is a true sprawl, offering a rich history and a diverse community of neighborhoods that are each unique in their feel and amenities. Outside of the Walk of Fame, you have your choice of surf spots, famous restaurants and bars, numerous museums filled with incredible art, trendy boutique shops, and nightlife unlike any other.

For those unfamiliar with the city, LA is spread out in a way that can feel dizzying and disorienting, which is why it’s a good idea to do lots of research before committing to any single spot. A real estate agent can also help you find the best place to buy a vacation home in the city that satisfies your needs. If you want to be in the thick of the hustle and bustle, you can find some spacious apartment lofts in Downtown. If you would be more comfortable in the outskirts, the Hollywood Hills offer some incredible homes overlooking the city. There really is something for everyone, and thanks to the interconnected freeways, you can easily make it across the city (just expect some traffic along the way).

Average home values in this city can fluctuate widely based on the neighborhood. The median home price in Los Angeles County was about $708,000 in early 2021.

Big Bear Lake

If you would rather escape the busy, always-active life of Los Angeles, Big Bear might be the place for you. This Southern California city tends to get more attention for its winter activities thanks to the Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski resorts. If you are a fan of skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or otherwise enjoying winter sports, keeping a cabin in Big Bear is a no-brainer.

At the same time, don’t ignore Big Bear during its warmer seasons. The eponymous lake measures seven miles long and one mile wide, making it the largest recreational lake in the state. The lake is full of bass, catfish, and trout, making it an ideal spot for fishermen. The lake is also extremely popular among kayakers, wakeboarders, jet skiers, and other water sports enthusiasts. If you love camping, hiking, or mountain biking, the surrounding wilderness and its network of trails will absolutely cater to your needs.

Just be aware that Big Bear Lake does tend to be far away from other amenities. That can be a good thing, but shopping choices can be limited. Traffic can also get congested in the winter.

The median home value in Big Bear Lake is a little over $257,000.

San Francisco

One of the most iconic cities in the world, San Francisco is an immense city that covers just 49 square miles of space. While the modern incarnation of the city is best known as home to the world’s tech giants, San Francisco is still a historic destination full of hilly streets, breathtaking architecture, and an intensely loyal community.

The city gets its year-round draw of tourists who enjoy everything from the seals at Fisherman’s Wharf to touring Alcatraz to visiting the country’s oldest Chinatown. The city’s density and accessible public transit make for easy travel to parks, museums, restaurants, and shops. San Francisco also has art that caters to all tastes, including thriving theater, internationally recognized operas, and stunning ballet companies.

San Francisco is regularly one of the most expensive cities in the country. The cost of living is high, and that reflects in the home prices in the area. The median home value in SF is about $1,097,000.

Lake Tahoe

Situated along the California-Nevada border, Lake Tahoe is a true sight to behold. The lake itself is one of the deepest, largest, and clearest lakes in the world. At almost a mile above sea level, the city sees plenty of visitors all year. In the winter, Lake Tahoe is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding, and in the summer, people flock to the city for biking, golf, and outdoor fun.

Tahoe City is popular and has a wide selection of restaurants and boutique shops in a fairly relaxed, low-key setting. South Lake Tahoe offers more wilderness alongside casinos that offer some great events and entertainment.

The median home value in Lake Tahoe is just over $403,000.

Since visitors frequent Lake Tahoe year-round, your property could also double as a vacation rental when you’re not there and provide you with some rental income. 

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree is a census-designated area located in San Bernardino County. It’s a small space that feels distinctly out of the way, more so than most other places in California. The area’s gem is Joshua Tree National Park, a protected area that straddles the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. The national park is named after the spindly, bristled trees scattered over 1,235 square miles of rocky, sandy land.

It’s hard to describe the particular allure of Joshua Tree, but it is a true spectacle. The national park and the census-designated area show that the arid desert landscape can feel as lush and plentiful as any other biome. The national park boasts an extensive network of hiking trails and camping. Outside of the park, the area offers everything from art installations to spiritual retreat centers. While it can feel like it’s in the middle of nowhere, Joshua Tree still provides plenty of excellent dining opportunities to suit every taste.

The median home value in this desert oasis is just over $150,100, making it one of the more affordable spots on the list.

Big Sur

Sitting along the Pacific Coast Highway, Big Sur is the platonic ideal of what California’s landscape has to offer. The region spans the central coast and features rugged, mountainous terrain that gives way to some of the most scenic views of the coastline. That all equates to an endless beauty that you can explore yourself. You can hike among tall trees that are hundreds of years old, and you can dive deep into the clear ocean waters. You can drive through the winding paths and forget all your troubles.

Big Sur is truly a paradise for nature lovers. The area has ten state parks with visitor services, along with several more just outside the region.

Along with the natural beauty, Big Sur is home to a tight-knit community with all the charm of a small town. The coast is sparsely populated and has a low occupancy rate, with just under 2,000 residents year-round. Yet, you can still find what you need, and the dining scene offers a healthy mix of local pubs and 5-star restaurants. Almost all of the dining and drinking options also offer a view of Big Sur’s mountains or coastline.

Despite the relatively low population, the home values can be fairly high. The average home value in Big Sur is over $1,695,000, making it one of the highest on the list, but that should tell you how desirable the area and its real estate.

Having a vacation home is the perfect way to get away while still feeling at home, all while building an investment. If you are considering a vacation home in California, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties is here to help. Our team can guide you through the process and provide you with all the information and tools you need to close a deal smoothly and find the home of your dreams.

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