When it comes to real estate, it’s no secret that location is king. The right neighborhood can add value to your home independent of the house itself. But there’s more to location than just monetary value. You want to find the perfect place for you to live, a place that meets all your needs and immediately feels like home.
So what type of neighborhood is best for you?
Every person could have a different answer to that question. Thankfully, Southern California has options. So let’s look closer at some of the different types of neighborhoods in Southern California to figure out which ones might be the most attractive for your situation.
Types of neighborhoods
Before you start looking for a new home base, it can be helpful to understand the types of neighborhoods that are out there.
Urban: Think big city lights and lots to do! Urban neighborhoods are situated in city centers with plenty of hustle and bustle. They also tend to have more public transport options and a vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene.
Suburban: Suburban areas can vary from county to county, but they all have one thing in common—close proximity to an urban center. Residents are never too far away from metropolitan amenities but can still enjoy the intimacy of a less populated neighborhood. Suburban areas tend to have smaller residential communities, parks, and a town center of their own.
Subdivisions: Think of subdivisions as residential communities. Subdivisions may be a ways away from urban life, but they may boast other amenities like outdoor spaces, swimming pools, walking or biking trails, and cul-de-sacs ideal for families with children. If you find yourself with questions surrounding certain housing amenities, for example, how much value does a pool add to a house, check out our resource center for all the help you need when it comes to the buying or selling process.
Rural: The opposite of urban, rural areas offer a bit more peace than the hectic day-to-day of a city. Rural neighborhoods tend to have large expanses of property between homes perfect for agricultural pastimes, pets, or adventuresome kids.
Historic: If you appreciate the charm and architectural beauty of bygone eras, historic neighborhoods offer a glimpse into the past. These neighborhoods are typically characterized by their unique architectural styles, meticulously preserved buildings, and a sense of nostalgia. While housing options in historic neighborhoods can vary, you’ll often find an array of single family homes as well as apartment, and condo selections. To note, the property value of these neighborhoods may be influenced by their historical significance.
New Urban: Embracing innovative and sustainable design, new urban neighborhoods offer a fresh perspective on city living. A New urban area-type neighborhood often feature well-designed apartment buildings with various floor plan options to suit different lifestyles. Additionally, they may include living learning communities that foster educational and collaborative environments. By encouraging pedestrian-friendly spaces, these neighborhoods promote a healthy and active lifestyle. Furthermore, new urban neighborhoods aim to provide affordable housing options, making them attractive to a diverse range of buyers.
Gated Community: For those seeking an added layer of security and privacy, a gated community offers a desirable living environment. Gated communities typically offer common areas that are well-maintained and accessible just to residents, such as parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities. Additionally, they may provide enhanced security measures, such as gated entrances and security personnel.
Factors to consider when finding the right type of neighborhood
No matter where you’re looking to move, there are a few universal factors worth considering as you try to find the best neighborhood for you and your family.
Are you a young professional excited to take on a new location? Are you starting a family? Are you looking for a bit of calm and relaxation in your future home? It can help to figure out what lifestyle you’re looking for before seeking out a neighborhood.
Young professionals might enjoy a more centralized, metropolitan scene to enjoy nightlife and entertainment as well as proximity to business areas.
Families with young children may look more towards suburban areas for a few urban amenities with a small-town feel.
Outdoorsy types with a love of nature may find more to gain from a rural neighborhood or even a subdivision.
Sometimes, you have your heart set on a particular kind of home. Maybe it’s a farmhouse with room in the back for planters and maybe a few chickens. Maybe it’s a sleek condo with an incredible view of the skyline. Whatever you’re looking for, different home types are more available in various kinds of neighborhoods.
Here’s what you’ll find in these neighborhood types:
Urban: City centers tend to involve close-quarter living. Apartment buildings, condos, and townhouses will be rampantly available, but bigger dwellings with extensive property space may be harder to find (and less affordable).
Suburban: Because suburban neighborhoods still offer proximity to a more bustling city center, spacious home dwellings are available but may come at a higher price point. You’ll be able to find a variety of homes such as condos, apartments, bungalows, and classic houses at a variety of prices. However, you may not see as much property acreage with these homes.
Subdivisions: Subdivisions tend to offer homes with small plots of land a ways away from urban city centers. Depending on the area you’re looking at, you can find anything from a variety of home types to cookie-cutter options.
Rural: Wide open spaces allow for more room to build and spread out. That means you’ll most likely be able to find more spacious dwellings in rural areas for a more affordable cost than a home in a subdivision or suburban neighborhood.
Historic: Homes in historic neighborhoods often have a unique architectural style. If you’re most interested in finding a home with character, this could be a great route for you.
Finances should always play a role in big decisions, such as the decision to move to a new neighborhood. Certain neighborhoods are more amenable to certain budgets.
Higher-priced neighborhoods may include:
Moderately priced neighborhoods may fall under the following categories:
Cheaper neighborhoods can also be found in the neighborhood types below:
Keep in mind that prices can vary by county or even city, especially in Southern California. If you’re looking to live a more urban lifestyle but have a moderate budget, you may be able to find more affordable urban homes in smaller cities or counties.
Top Southern California counties
In a state as large and diverse as California, choosing the right type of neighborhood can be a daunting task. Where do you even start?
It can often help by looking at some of the major areas to see what they offer. These larger counties are often hubs for work and entertainment, so even if you choose to live outside the city, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the closest metropolitan area as you’re likely to be spending plenty of time there.
What are the best areas in Southern California? The answer will come down to personal preference, but here are our favorite counties in SoCal:
1. San Diego County
San Diego County tops the list when it comes to Southern California areas, and why not? Beautiful weather year-round and plenty of work opportunities have San Diego ranking high in desire, quality of life, and job outlook. And with a median age of 36 for its residents, it’s perfect for young families.
The one downside when it comes to San Diego is the price. Median home prices in San Diego hover at nearly $900,000, meaning if you’re cost-conscious, this may not be the neighborhood for you.
2. Los Angeles County
Glitz! Glamor! And, yes, the occasional traffic jam, but where else can you start your day at the beach, end it in the mountains, and meet some celebrities in between? Los Angeles scores very high in desirability. It also has a high quality of life score and a respectable job outlook. As with many major SoCal cities, LA can be tough in affordability.
However, it’s worth keeping in mind that while Los Angeles can be expensive, it’s also a massively large county with many different cities, from Santa Monica to Culver City. That means there are deals to be found. To find these deals you’ll want an expert at your side. To find that expert, look no further than the agents at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties.
3. Orange County
Snug between LA and San Diego Counties, Orange County has something for everyone. Whether you’re a beach-loving bum or a young professional launching their career, you can find a little bit of everything in the OC, including:
Irvine, the safest city in America
Natural spaces such as the El Moro Canyon and Shipley Nature Center
Vast state beaches
Highly rated schools
And of course, Disneyland
Looking to the suburbs
To understand the neighborhoods within cities, it’s worth consulting detailed city guides, but there are still the suburbs to take into account. After all, when you’re buying a house, you may want to be slightly outside the city center. Suburbs offer quieter, slower-paced living that is still conveniently close to the work and entertainment options of the city.
Best overall suburbs in SoCal
The following list of SoCal suburbs all come in with an A+ overall Niche grade, showing that they are some of the most desirable locations to live:
La Cañada Flintridge
As you can see, this list zooms out to include areas around Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego without specifically being in the middle of the major cities. This can help somewhat with affordability concerns while still putting a premium on the quality of life. However, places like Santa Monica may be more desirable to renters as the housing market can be limited.
Best suburbs if you’re looking to buy
Especially when you’re young and just getting to know an area, renting an apartment may be the preferable option over buying a house. But for many of us, there comes a time when we want more stability, and we want to start building equity.
Niche has another list for homebuyers that weights their housing criteria higher than other quality of life factors. That list shows us the suburbs you should start considering if you’re looking to buy instead of rent. Some of these favorite SoCal suburbs include:
This list may not be full of household names like Santa Monica or Pasadena, but, by looking at smaller areas like this, you can find more affordable options that still give you the best of California living at a fraction of the price. If you don’t mind a slightly longer commute, that could mean more house for your money.
First-time buyer considerations
This guide has been focused on the type of neighborhood you may want to consider when purchasing a house in Southern California. For first-time buyers, the neighborhood is just one of many things you will have to weigh when purchasing a home.
Since it’s your first time, it’s understandable that you may not know what to expect. So, while you’re considering the type of neighborhood that best suits you and your family as well as the benefits of owning your own home, there are some other things you may want to keep in mind:
Credit: Do you know your credit score? If not, it’s time to learn what it is and, possibly, how to improve it. The better your credit score, the better the terms of your loan will likely be. The better your loan, the better the house you’ll be able to afford. There are other factors lenders will take into consideration but getting your credit in order is an ideal starting point for any first-time buyer.
Budget: Having a good credit score can help you secure favorable loan terms, but you still need to have a solid sense of what your budget will be both now and in the future. A mortgage is a long-term loan that you need to be able to pay monthly for years into the future. Staying within your budget will ensure you can continue to do that as you build equity in your new home.
Type of house: We’ve talked a lot about the type of neighborhood you might want to look at and the factors that could help you decide, but you also need to consider the type of house you want. From exterior construction to interior layout, you should have an idea of what you want. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time in your new home, so best to know if you like that open-concept kitchen before you buy it.
Type of mortgage: Do you want a fixed-rate mortgage or an adjustable rate? Which is more likely to save you on interest? What is the federal interest rate right now, and how does that affect what you will be able to get? These are all questions worth knowing, so you get the most favorable mortgage terms possible.
Post-purchase considerations: Buying your new home is only step one. Do you need to keep money aside for renovations? How will your new location affect your commute to work and your overall travel budget? Moving comes with a lot of changes. It’s important to consider both the financial and non-financial changes you’re about to embark on.
When making a big purchase like buying a house, you want the best team by your side. You want people who know Southern California. You want people who know the housing market. You want people who will get to know you and work for you. You want Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties.
Sources: US News and World Report 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8