California’s most affordable coastal county

The dream of residing along California’s picturesque coastline seems unattainable for many, given the steep prices that accompany the scenic views of white sand, surf, and sunsets. In numerous coastal communities, home values have escalated into the millions, presenting a significant barrier to prospective homeowners.

According to the latest data from the California Association of Realtors from January 2024, the median price for a single-family home has surpassed the $1 million mark in several affluent areas, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara County, Santa Cruz County, and Orange County. Additionally, prices are nearing this landmark figure in San Diego County.

Yet, amidst this landscape of soaring real estate values, there exists an exception that defies the norm: Del Norte County. Situated at the northernmost tip of California, Del Norte County emerges as the state’s most affordable coastal haven.

With a median home price of just $295,000, it stands as a stark contrast to the exorbitant costs found elsewhere, only trailing behind Lassen County, which has a median price of $229,000, for affordability within the state.

Del Norte County is celebrated for its breathtaking natural beauty, from its towering redwoods and rugged seaside cliffs to its scenic lighthouses and diverse outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and whitewater rafting.

It’s a locale that epitomizes the essence of spirited independence, offering a unique blend of tranquility and adventure. The area’s official tourism website invites visitors and potential residents to embrace self-reliance and immerse themselves in the natural wonders that define the region.

Despite its allure, Del Norte County offers a lifestyle that might not cater to everyone’s preferences. The county encompasses only one incorporated city, Crescent City, where the housing market is remarkably accessible. Properties situated merely blocks from the ocean are listed between $200,000 and $300,000, per Zillow’s listings.

This financial accessibility extends to the general cost of living. According to MIT’s living wage calculator, a family of four in Del Norte County needs an income of $39.47 per hour, or $82,097 annually, to live comfortably.

This is significantly lower than the living wages required in southern coastal counties like Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, where median home prices soar above a million dollars and living wages exceed $50 per hour.

Adjacent to Del Norte, the northern California counties of Humboldt and Mendocino also present more affordable living options, with median home prices still under $500,000.

This is a far cry from the exorbitant costs associated with living in the coastal regions of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Coast, or Southern California, where finding a home under $800,000 becomes a formidable challenge.

While Del Norte County remains a bastion of affordability in an otherwise expensive state, it’s important to note that not all expenses are lower. For instance, the price of regular unleaded gasoline in the area is $5.17 per gallon, which is 30 cents above the California average, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

In conclusion, Del Norte County represents a rare opportunity for those yearning to live near the California coast without the hefty price tag. Its combination of natural beauty, affordable housing, and a lower cost of living compared to other coastal regions makes it an attractive option for individuals and families seeking a more economical and serene lifestyle.

However, potential residents should consider all aspects of living in this rural coastal area, including the cost of commodities and the availability of amenities, to ensure it aligns with their lifestyle and budget.

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