Special Report

The Most Expensive Housing Markets in California

If you’re planning on moving West to California, better bring a fat wallet with you. Housing prices in the Golden State wildly exceed those in the rest of the nation. The real estate firm Zillow prices the typical middle-tier U.S. home at $298,933 as of July. In California, that number zooms to more than $700,000. No wonder the state is full of cities where the middle class can no longer afford housing.

The California Association of Realtors calculated an even higher number. In May, the group estimated a median home price of $818,260, an increase from $814,010 in April and 39.1% higher than the $588,070 recorded in May of last year. That annual price hike was the highest recorded year-over-year rise. 

Who can blame people for wanting to live in California? It has a beautiful coastline, lush scenery, a robust economy, and a year-round sunny climate. Some are more than willing to pay for the pleasure of living in a truly golden state. 

To identify the most expensive housing markets in California, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey five-year estimates, ranking only census-designated places, cities, and towns with at least 5,000 residents. (All data came from the ACS except percent of population change, which we calculated using ACS data.) 

If average housing prices are high in most locations across the state, some cities and towns have downright astronomical residential values, even by California standards. (These are the cities where housing prices are rising the fastest.)

Considering the concentration of the highly profitable tech industry in Northern California, it shouldn’t be surprising the highest-priced homes in the state are to be found in the San Francisco Bay Area. The most expensive of all is Alto, a small community tucked away in ritzy Marin County outside of San Francisco. There, the median home price is $2 million, with 100% of all houses tagged at $500,000 or more. The same holds true for another Marin County enclave, Belvedere, which placed second on the list.  

Click here to see the most expensive housing markets in California.

If you prefer Southern California, No. 3 Del Mar, a beach town north of San Diego, can be your home — if you have at least $500,000 to $2 million to spare. Even a house in San Carlos, south of San Francisco in San Mateo County, could cost you up to $1.63 million — and that’s the cheapest town on the list.