Finding a home that meets your needs without breaking the bank can be a serious challenge. State-wide, California has a median home value of $538,500. When you add in maintenance costs and property taxes, it can be difficult for many to buy and own a home.
That's why we've compiled a list of affordable cities in California to help you find a new place to live. All of these places are more affordable than average, meaning you can get more bang for your buck.
Looking for the most affordable places in California is a start, but you'll save even more money by working with a great agent.
The top California real estate agents know the local market and where to find pockets of more affordable homes. They can also help negotiate a better price when you do find your dream home.
At Clever Real Estate, we can match you with agents in any area you're interested in — even multiple areas at the same time. You can interview as many agents as you like until you find the perfect place to call home — all at no cost or obligation to you.
Most affordable cities in California
Whether you're looking for a quiet small town or a trendy suburban neighborhood, it's possible to locate pockets of affordability throughout California.
Here are our top picks for California residents on a budget:
The median home price in Bakersfield is much more reasonable than the state as a whole and sits around $242,000. The population of the city is around 380,000, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data.
Settled almost exactly in the middle of the state, Bakersfield is far enough from the beach to be affordable, but close enough for a day trip at just 2 hours away. Plus, it’s surrounded by three different national forests so there’s no reason to be bored.
Job opportunities are centered around the oil and agriculture sectors and the city strives for a family-friendly feel. The Macaroni & Cheese Festival held each spring sure doesn’t hurt.
Clovis is just a stone’s throw from Fresno but enjoys a much lower crime rate. Because of its great school system, the city is full of young families and has a population around 110,000. The median home value is $342,800 and many of the residents work in the agriculture industry. The rich soil provides for a year-round growing season, so you can enjoy fresh produce all year. The city is also home to the Wild Water Adventure Park, the largest water park in California and is just a few hours from the beach.
Even after you've found a more affordable place to live in California, moving there can be expensive. By working with a Clever Partner Agent, you'll have an expert in your corner and you may be able to take advantage of Clever Cash Back.
When you buy a home with a Clever agent, you might be eligible for up to 0.5% cash back to use on anything you want. For the average home value of $538,500, you'd pocket $2,693 to help you move (or splurge on a great housewarming gift for yourself).
If you prefer a large city in California, but are on a budget, check out Sacramento. The city has a population of more than half a million, but a median home value of $326,900. You’ll enjoy the benefits of living in the capital city with plenty to do, lots of historic landmarks and loads of food options.
Another benefit of Sacramento is the abundance of jobs — both in the private sector and through the state government. While the city had some rockiness surrounding the last recession, the city is on the path to recovery.
If you love day trips, Sacramento offers plenty of close places to explore — Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Yosemite, just to name a few.
Living close to the beach is one thing, living on the beach is another! If you’re looking for an affordable beachfront home, be sure to check out Oxnard. The city is about an hour north of Los Angeles and an hour south of Santa Barbara. While at $504,000, the median home value is more than others on this list, Oxnard is one of the most affordable beachfront living spots in California.
Oxnard has a population of around 210,000 and is close to golf courses and wineries, and less than five miles from Mandalay Beach, of course. Enjoy that Southern California life at a fraction of the cost in Oxnard.
Located just outside the Los Angeles metro, Fontana has a population of about 210,000 and a median home value of $391,200. Despite its close proximity to all the excitement of LA, Fontana enjoys a low crime rate and plenty of jobs in the healthcare industry. The city is also just an hour from Newport Beach for you to enjoy a day in the sunshine.
The benefits of a great real estate agent
If you're just researching affordable places to live, you might wonder why you need a real estate agent. They're the ones that help you once you've already decided on a house, right?
Not necessarily. The truth is, it's never too early to start looking for an agent. In fact, talking to a realtor early on in the process can help you narrow down your options much faster than doing research on your own.
A real estate agent's job is to know everything about their local area. They'll find the best deals in desirable neighborhoods — and might just help you snag your dream home for an affordable price. Let a Clever agent help you discover your options today — all while you enjoy 0.5% cash back!
Frequently asked questions about affordable places to live in California
In addition to shopping in some of the most affordable areas, you'll want to work with an experienced real estate agent. They can find you hidden gems at low price points. A good agent can also negotiate like a pro to get you a lower sale price and more buyer incentives. You may also be able to take advantage of home buyer rebates.
We recommend using the 28/36 rule to know how much house you can afford. This means your housing expenses shouldn't exceed 28% of your income, and all of your total debt shouldn't exceed 36%. Learn more about how to calculate your home buying budget.