"After a solid decade of urban revitalization, marked in part by excitement over density, rediscovery of urban cores, and disparagement of sprawl, the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with some key demographic and financial factors, may be sending California back to the 1950s.
Ever since cities locked down in order to reduce transmission of the coronavirus, debates have raged over the epidemiological implications of density and, less esoterically, over whether center cities remain can attractive when there’s nothing to do. While many in the state do not have the means to pick and choose exactly where they want to live, the combination of remote work and pandemic ennui has prompted untold numbers of well-off urban Californians to retreat to suburbs and to exurban “Zoomtowns.”
On Redfin’s list of “hottest neighborhoods” for 2021, based on data such as ratio of sale price to list price, Nos. 1, 3, and 10 went to the California regions of Lake Tahoe, Big Bear, and Mountain House, respectively.
Moreover, according to a recent report by AdvisorSmith, some of the most dramatic increases in rental rates in the nation are in California. Rancho Cucamonga (up 13%) ranks third, Murrieta (11%) ranks eighth, and Chino Hills ranks ninth, with Temecula, Bakersfield, and Fresno also in the top 25. And yet some of the most dramatic reductions in rental rates also are in California. The Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale rank 4-6, with declines of over 20% each. Eight other Bay Area cities fill out the other 19 spots.
In many instances, the two lists are two sides of the same coin.
“We are seeing an influx of poeple coming from the coastal counties,” said Matt Burris, deputy city manager in Rancho Cucamonga. “There are people looking to get out of higher-density cities and apartments.”
In the Bay Area, median home prices in several counties exceed $1.3 million. By contrast, median home prices in inland areas are affordable, even if they have risen recently. Median home price Sacramento County is around $420,000, up from $360,000 at the end of 2019. Prices in adjacent El Dorado County are even higher, at an average of $535,000, an 18% increase from the end of 2019."
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