Ready to Buy in Orange County? These Are the Cities You Can Afford

Some of the first concerns that come to mind when looking for a new home are the budget and how far that budget will go.

Since you’re most likely not a billionaire, knowing what cities you can afford is important.

To celebrate the New Year and the launch of our real estate appraisal business, we figured we would help out.

Harbor Blvd, Orange CountyWe wanted to put this concern into perspective for our home turf of Orange County, California.

To do this, we analyzed 28,512 sales of residential properties in Orange County that sold in 2016 and made two maps based on the average prices for each city.

These 28,512 sales included detached and attached properties in the incorporated cities of Orange County.

From this data, we determined that you are going to have to fork over around a half million just to get a decent detached home, or around half of that if you even want to get a place in Orange County at all.

If you didn’t have a heart attack (Or close the page) after hearing that, then check out the two maps below, and we’ll take a closer look.

Average Prices of Detached Homes in Orange County, California:

Orange County Detached Home Prices 2016

(Click to Enlarge)

Average Prices of Attached Homes in Orange County, California:

Orange County Attached Home Prices 2016

(Click to Enlarge)

To find the data for these maps, we used the regional MLS, CRMLS. This data was from the past year (2016) in the incorporated cities of Orange County.

That means that if it wasn’t listed on CRMLS in the past year, then it wasn’t included in these maps.

The 28,512 sales include 17,797 detached property sales and 10,715 attached property sales.

To represent the average home prices accurately, we created two separate maps.

One map is for detached properties, and one is for attached properties.

The reason we did this is that detached properties always sell for significantly more.

Now what you see may shock you, but don’t worry. These numbers are averages, not the entry price for a property in these cities.

Average Prices of Homes in Orange County, California

The data used for the maps is laid out below.

The following tables below show:

  • Name of the city
  • Number of sales
  • Price ranges
  • Averages of these sales

Detached Properties

City# of SalesPrice RangeAverage Price
Aliso Viejo348410,000 - 1,500,000$788,647
Anaheim1502280,000 - 4,300,000$624,864
Brea375425,000 - 2,465,000$761,364
Buena Park439250,000 - 1,200,000$546,609
Costa Mesa534505,000 - 3,300,000$859,747
Cypress267340,000 - 1,350,000$691,686
Dana Point337510,000 - 19,997,000$1,713,748
Fountain Valley303445,000 - 1,385,000$777,425
Fullerton852291,000 - 3,280,000$714,448
Garden Grove703331,000 - 1,480,000$566,686
Huntington Beach1152400,000 - 5,700,000$983,249
Irvine1379475,000 - 9,950,000$1,190,634
La Habra358288,000 - 1,315,000$579,845
La Palma76485,000 - 899,000$647,914
Laguna Beach308450,000 - 45,000,000$2,624,995
Laguna Hills264375,900 - 3,500,000$1,019,872
Laguna Niguel576520,000 - 6,295,000$1,033,988
Laguna Woods29475,000 - 1,050,000$734,862
Lake Forest629405,000 - 1,773,880$729,563
Los Alamitos54520,000 - 1,900,000$817,169
Mission Viejo1000415,000 - 2,500,000$722,867
Newport Beach739720,000 - 28,000,000$2,881,466
Orange869370,000 - 3,515,000$734,715
Placentia339310,750 - 1,200,000$678,934
Rancho Santa Margarita529448,000 - 1,525,000$737,016
San Clemente751425,000 - 7,588,000$1,076,612
San Juan Capistrano331383,904 - 6,500,000$1,152,300
Santa Ana817240,000 - 1,500,000$534,351
Seal Beach94590,000 - 2,226,000$1,045,996
Stanton64375,000 - 770,000$510,020
Tustin406423,000 - 3,750,000$847,259
Villa Park62600,000 - 2,650,000$1,335,370
Westminster353360,000 - 2,150,000$625,280
Yorba Linda646370,000 - 4,300,000$968,460

Attached Properties

City# of SalesPrice RangeAverage Price
Aliso Viejo585180,000 - 760,000$450,342
Anaheim800105,000 - 727,500$419,570
Brea125316,000 - 700,000$506,886
Buena Park116300,000 - 579,000$453,291
Costa Mesa264147,000 - 925,000$538,208
Cypress181168,000 - 835,000$458,327
Dana Point191186,000 - 3,875,000$694,493
Fountain Valley127180,000 - 651,375$460,136
Fullerton375120,000 - 645,000$411,519
Garden Grove304195,000 - 529,000$357,470
Huntington Beach785107,500 - 1,795,000$543,057
Irvine1405209,900 - 2,315,000$607,831
La Habra178185,000 - 512,500$324,127
La Palma15320,000 - 535,000$404,760
Laguna Beach58261,600 - 6,000,000$1,586,599
Laguna Hills199227,000 - 778,000$419,659
Laguna Niguel516235,000 - 1,550,000$499,457
Laguna Woods4602,000 - 1,170,000$306,591
Lake Forest470188,399 - 1,100,000$411,899
Los Alamitos26378,000 - 604,000$481,146
Mission Viejo423166,000 - 1,010,000$440,624
Newport Beach368300,000 -3,400,000$988,807
Orange338145,000 - 810,000$420,676
Placentia147178,000 - 635,000$413,597
Rancho Santa Margarita448198,000 - 744,900$409,439
San Clemente221239,000 - 2,600,000$631,060
San Juan Capistrano143185,000 - 820,000$451,075
Santa Ana53094,000 - 760,000$311,079
Seal Beach48243,000 - 935,000$412,792
Stanton131190,000 - 480,000$341,518
Tustin394200,000 - 920,000$448,740
Villa Park00$0
Westminster70262,000 - 620,180$428,299
Yorba Linda267185,000 - 1,130,000$515,234

As you can see from the data above, even if the averages are higher, it doesn’t mean that you can’t buy into these areas for less.

Notice how some of the cities have wide ranges, while some have tight ranges. It all depends on the city and what was available in 2016.

For the most part, these charts represent the housing market in Orange County for 2016 quite well.

With all this in mind, what cities can you afford?

Well, let me start off by saying that I’m in no way a financial planner of any sorts. I’m a real estate appraiser.

These are conclusions based on the average home prices over the past year and the budget you can afford.


If your budget is over $2,000,000, then you can pretty much buy into any city in Orange County.

You might need a little more to afford the trophy properties, but you can live comfortably on $2,000,000 anywhere in the county.

Laguna Beach would be my top choice if you want to live near a downtown. Newport Beach is another option of course.

If you’re into having large amounts of land like I am, then I would stick to areas like San Juan Capistrano, Tustin, Yorba Linda, and east Orange County.

$1,000,000 – $2,000,000

While $1,000,000 – $2,000,000 is still a hefty budget, it might be tight in the nicest areas like Newport and Laguna Beach.

This budget will still comfortably buy you into pretty much every other city in the county.

You could afford a suitable property in:

$750,000 – $1,000,000

Once you drop below the $1,000,000 line, your options start to decrease slowly.

The good news is that a $750,000 – $1,000,000 budget can still get you a lot for your money.

While you might not be able to get into the southern beach cities, Huntington Beach is still doable if you want to live near the water.

Recommended cities in this price range:

$500,000 – $750,000

$500,000 – $750,000 can get you into the rest of the cities in Orange County that I have not mentioned yet.

The majority will be in the northern part of the county, but there are also some other decent areas in the south as well.

If you want to live in south county, once you go east of the 5 Freeway, $500,000 – $750,000 will get you a decent place.

Cities worth mentioning in this price range are:

So where’s the cheapest real estate?

If you’re not too concerned about the safety and cleanliness of the neighborhood you live in, Santa Ana.

This past year, they had the lowest detached home sale at $240,000 and one of the lowest attached home sales at $94,000. Buena Park had the second detached home sale lowest at $250,000.

If you are looking for a safer and cleaner, but still affordable area to live in, Santa Ana has some nicer areas as well.

I would also recommend checking out the cities of Orange and Fullerton. You can still get some good deals on quality properties there.

And the most expensive?

Well, Laguna Beach for one, had the most expensive sale in the county this past year. You may recognize it as the Twin Points.

It’s safe to say that with its 2.28 acres and private beach, it’s the most desirable oceanfront lot in the entire county.

But that’s why the owners have had it in the family since 1930 and waited until this past year to sell it for a fortune. $45,000,000 to be exact.

The city of Newport Beach also some high dollar sales in the past year.

The next two highest sales in the county were a ~6,700 square foot home on Linda Isle and an 18,650 square foot home in Newport Coast. Both done to the nines of course.

Dana Point also had a couple of properties in the top 10 highest sales.

Both of these properties are on the most exclusive street in Dana Point, Strand Beach Dr.

Orange County’s Top 10 Highest Sales in 2016

In case you’re interested, here’s a table below with the top 10 highest sales in Orange County this past year.

I won’t give you the exact addresses for the privacy of the owners, but if you do a little snooping, I’m sure you could find them.

Street NameCityPriceSqftYrBuiltAc/LSqft
Marine DRLaguna Beach$45,000,0002308/A19282.28/99,317
MystiqueNewport Coast$28,000,00018650/AP20090.848/36,933
Linda IsleNewport Beach$20,000,0006788/B20160.19/8,276
Strand Beach DRDana Point$19,997,5009950/E20100.227/9,879
Emerald BayLaguna Beach$19,125,0001910/A19480.26/11,326
Strand Beach DRDana Point$17,225,0008838/E20100.236/10,289
Ocean WYLaguna Beach$16,000,0005650/E20090.23/10,019
Deep SeaNewport Coast$15,025,00010600/E20130.592/25,809
SkycrestNewport Coast$13,800,00012000/SEE20040.61/26,588
Masters CRNewport Coast$13,000,00011908/AP20010.473/20,596

So what can we conclude from this past year of sales data?

  • Newport Beach and Laguna Beach will always be the most expensive cities in Orange County
  • Cities by the ocean are always going to be more expensive than the cities that are further inland
  • Cities that are in the southern part of the county tend to have higher averages than the northern part
  • For detached properties, Huntington Beach as a whole is the cheapest beach city that you can buy in
  • Villa Park and Yorba Linda have the highest detached home averages in the northern part of the county
  • For attached properties, the majority of the averages are between $400,000 and $500,000, which gives buyers in that price range plenty of options
  • There are many other properties available in the unincorporated areas ranging from $140,000 to $4,600,000 that were not included in this data
  • Orange County home values continue to rise with no signs of slowing down anytime soon

If you’re in the real estate industry in Orange County or Southern California, I’d be curious to see what your opinions are on the market and this data.

Let me know in the comments below.

P.S. Feel free to print the maps and share them, or share this post! I created them with the intent to be shared.

Founder, Principal at Realvals
Austin Fernald writes about the Bay Area and Northern California real estate market, as well as the real estate appraisal industry as a whole.
Austin Fernald

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